Former Attorney General Eric Holder called for Gov. Raph Northam (D-VA) to resign over an unearthed photo with racist imagery, and he said a nationwide discussion about modern-day racism is needed in America.
“I have come to know Ralph Northam as a good, very decent man,” Holder’s statement shared to Twitter began. “I regretfully conclude that he does not now have the ability to effectively govern and effectively stand for the issues – moral and political – that Virginia and the nation must confront. The Governor should resign.”
Holder then went on to say that while Northam’s resignation would be “correct,” it would not put an end to the matter. “We still need to have a difficult and necessary conversation about how racism and racist symbols still pervade too much of our society – and the pain they cause,” Holder said.
“What have we learned as a nation?” he concluded his statement by asking.
Holder’s call for Northam to resign comes as the Obama-era official weighs a run for the presidency in 2020 and is scheduled to deliver a “major speech” in Iowa in February, according to CNN contributor April Ryan. Appearing on CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert last year, Holder revealed he is toying with a White House bid, saying that he would make up his mind in the coming months.
“I’m thinking about it and what I’ve said is that I’d make a determination sometime early next year,” Holder told the comedian. “My focus, really, now is on 2018, the midterms and trying to make sure that Democrats take back the Senate, take back the House, and that we do well, importantly, at the state level.”
Earlier Saturday, Northam denied being in a photo with another individual in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan robe and hat featured in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical yearbook.
“Yesterday, I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page in the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook that was clearly racist and offensive,” the embattled Virginia Democrat said. “I am not and will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist, and despicable.
“I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing the content on a yearbook page that belongs to me,” he continued. “It is disgusting, it is offensive, it is racist, and it was my responsibility to recognize and prevent it from being published in the first place.”
The stunning reversal came after Northam admitting and apologizing for being in the photo, which he called “clearly racist and offensive.”
Despite denying he was in the photo, Northam did reveal that he once darkened his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a dance contest in the same year the yearbook was published.
“My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems, in part, by my clear memory of other mistakes I made in the same period of my life,” Northam admitted. “That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume.”
“I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that,” he added. “It is because my memory of that episode is so vivid that I truly do not believe I am in the picture in my yearbook.”
Holder joins a slew of leading Democrats and Republicans calling for Northam to resign over the flap.
Late Friday night, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement calling on the embattled governor to leave his post.
“But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as governor,” said the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. “It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing.”
Democrat presidential contenders, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined the fray, both saying that the time had come for the state’s chief executive to step aside.
“Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together,” said Harris.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) criticized Northam over the phone, yet stopped short of calling on him to exit his post.
“The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values,” the Speaker said in a statement via Twitter. “I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward”