Vir­ginia Gov. Northam: ‘I’m not go­ing any­where’

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National - By Fenit Ni­rap­pil

Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Demo­crat, de­fended his abil­ity to lead and heal the state’s racial wounds in his first on-cam­era in­ter­view since the rev­e­la­tion of a racist photo that threat­ens to de­rail this gov­er­nor­ship.

“Right now, Vir­ginia needs some­one that can heal. There’s no bet­ter per­son to do that than a doc­tor,” Mr. Northam said in an in­ter­view with jour­nal­ist Gayle King, ex­cerpts of which were aired at the start of CBS’s “Face the Na­tion” on Sun­day.

“Vir­ginia also needs some­one who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral com­pass. And that’s why I’m not go­ing any­where,” Mr. Northam said in the in­ter­view, which will air in full Mon­day on “CBS This Morn­ing.”

Mr. Northam’s com­ments echo those he made in a Satur­day in­ter­view with The Washington Post, where he vowed to de­vote the rest of his gov­er­nor­ship to ad­vanc­ing racial eq­uity in the one-time heart of the Con­fed­er­acy.

Near the be­gin­ning of the CBS in­ter­view ex­cerpt in an ex­change with Ms. King, Mr. Northam notes that this year is the 400th an­niver­sary of the first “in­den­tured ser­vants from Africa” ar­riv­ing in Vir­ginia.

Ms. King in­ter­jects: “Also known as slav­ery.”

Mr. Northam re­sponds, “Yes. While we have made a lot of progress in Vir­ginia — slav­ery has ended, schools have been de­seg­re­gated, we have ended the Jim Crow laws, eas­ier ac­cess to vot­ing — it is abun­dantly clear that we still have a lot of work to do,” Mr. Northam told Ms. King. “And I re­ally think this week raised a level of aware­ness in the com­mon­wealth and in this coun­try that we haven’t seen, cer­tainly in my life­time.”

Mr. Northam’s ref­er­ence to slaves as in­den­tured ser­vants sparked some out­rage on so­cial me­dia.

“Vir­ginia deserves a gover­nor that knows the folks who were stolen from their land & brought to present day Vir­ginia on cargo ships in 1619 were not ‘in­den­tured ser­vants’ they were moth­ers, fa­thers, daugh­ters, sons, lead­ers, war­riors, el­ders who were cap­tured & en­slaved. SIGH,” tweeted Demo­cratic op­er­a­tive Sy­mone San­ders.

“My God, it just gets worse & worse. Asked about this week in VA, Northam re­sponds by re­fer­ring to kid­napped, en­slaved, & traf­ficked Africans as ‘in­den­tured ser­vants,’ tweeted Qasim Rashid, a Mus­lim ac­tivist who lives in Vir­ginia.

The first Africans brought to Vir­ginia were cap­tured in An­gola and brought in a slave ship, but Vir­ginia did not have a for­mal le­gal sys­tem for slav­ery in 1619. There ap­pears to be some am­bi­gu­ity over their le­gal sta­tus, with some still forced to work for life while oth­ers had a path to free­dom, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice. Asked to clar­ify Mr. Northam’s re­marks, a spokes­woman for the gover­nor pointed to news ac­counts that re­ferred to the first black Africans be­ing treated as in­den­tured ser­vants be­fore slave laws.

The state is in chaos with con­tro­ver­sies en­gulf­ing the state’s top three elected of­fi­cials. Shortly af­ter the rev­e­la­tions about Mr. Northam, Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring ad­mit­ted to wear­ing black­face as a col­lege stu­dent, and Demo­cratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax also faces calls to re­sign af­ter two women ac­cused him of sex­ual as­sault.

Mr. Fair­fax has said en­coun­ters with his ac­cusers in 2000 and 2004 were con­sen­sual and has asked the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate. Vir­ginia Demo­cratic law­mak­ers be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing a draft res­o­lu­tion Sun­day to be­gin im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against Mr. Fair­fax over the al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Tommy Nor­ment, a Repub­li­can, also ac­knowl­edged he was an ed­i­tor of a 1968 year­book that fea­tured racial slurs and pho­tos of stu­dents in black­face, but said he was not re­spon­si­ble for the con­tent.

Mr. Northam, who is start­ing to ap­pear pub­licly again af­ter spend­ing nearly a week in seclu­sion, ad­dressed the scan­dals fac­ing his fel­low elected of­fi­cials.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers at the state and na­tional level, along with the state Demo­cratic Party, have de­manded Mr. Fair­fax’s res­ig­na­tion, but the lieu­tenant gover­nor has said he will not step down. Mr. Fair­fax would be­come gover­nor if Mr. Northam re­signs.

Mr. Northam said he sup­ports an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but stopped short of call­ing for Mr. Fair­fax’s res­ig­na­tion.

Gov. Ralph Northam

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