U.S. President Donald Trump waded into the controversy surrounding the governor of Virginia over a racist photo that appeared on the governor’s medical school yearbook page.
Trump tweeted late Saturday that Gov. Ralph Northam’s initial apology for the photo and subsequent denial that he was in the picture are “Unforgiveable!”
The president’s tweet also referenced a controversy surrounding comments Northam made earlier last week about late term abortion.
Northam, a Democrat, quickly apologized Friday after reports emerged of a photo in his 1984 yearbook page that shows a man in blackface standing next to a person dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member.
“I cannot change the decisions I made, nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today,” he said in a video posted to Twitter.
But the following day, amid numerous calls for Northam to resign, the governor held a press conference to say he did not believe that either of the people in the photo were him and that the photo appeared on his page due to an error.
“That is not me in that photo… That is not who I am,” the governor said.
He claimed he did not buy a copy of the yearbook and was unaware until Friday the picture was even there.
At the same he said the appearance of the photo on his page was “horrific” and “just unacceptable.”
Northam did admit Saturday to having worn blackface when he was 25 years old as part of costume for a dance contest in which he impersonated the African-American pop star Michael Jackson. He expressed remorse for that event, saying he learned after that why blackface is offensive.
Despite that admission, Northam said he does not intend to resign.
“Today I am not ready to ask Virginians to grant me forgiveness for my past actions… I am asking for the opportunity to earn your forgiveness,” he said.
But a growing chorus Democrats — including most of the party’s 2020 presidential hopefuls — are calling on Northam to step down.
Both of Virginia’s U.S. senators and one congressman issued a joint statement after Northam addressed the media Saturday saying the governor “must resign.”
“He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing,” the statement from Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Representative Bobby Scott read.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also released statements on Saturday calling for Northam to resign.
If Northam does resign, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who is African-American, would assume the governor’s office.