Northam called several state Democratic officials to say that he isn't one of the men in a photo from his university yearbook depicting two people - one in blackface, the other dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, according to various USA media reports.
Northam told members of the media he was in touch with some of his former medical school colleagues who said they believed numerous pictures in the yearbook were mixed up. He asserts that he was mistaken when he said yesterday that he had appeared in his medical school yearbook photograph in blackface or under a hood wearing Ku Klux Klan garb.
Northam is not a dynamic public speaker, but has a reputation for sterling character that has won the trust of Republicans, who worked with him last year to pass Medicaid expansion after four years of resisting it under previous Governor Terry McAuliffe.
I am deeply sorry. It's 2019, 35 years later; what Northam thought was in good taste when he was 25 says next to nothing, I think, about his beliefs and actions today, when he is 60.
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On Friday, Northam apologized for appearing in the photo.
A quote included with the photo reads: "There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I'll have another beer".
"Virginians and people across the country deserve better from their leaders, and it is clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern", Perez said in a statement.
Calls for Northam to resign came shortly after he sparked outrage over a controversial bill that would repeal restrictions on third-trimester abortions.
Northam's departure would mean current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat who is only the second African American to win statewide office in Virginia, would be the next governor. Northam's term was set to end in 2022.
Mr Northam was elected governor of Virginia in November 2017.
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Ralph Northam had to look to his wife to get an answer, before responding: "My wife says 'inappropriate circumstances'".
Sophomore Rep. A. Donald McEachin, who represents a safe Democratic seat, also called for Northam to resign late Friday night. An Associated Press reporter saw the yearbook page and confirmed its authenticity at the medical school.
Northam then defended her comments.
"These pictures rip off the scabs of an excruciatingly painful history and are a piercing reminder of this nation's sins".
Northam admitted he was in the offensive photo. He said he'll convene a meeting of leadership and others to address the issue.
Senator Cory Booker, an African-American 2020 presidential hopeful, was one of the first big name Democrats to react. "All elected officials are held to the highest standards and this photo is beneath that of any elected office, and especially that of a governor".
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Booker's entry makes this the first nomination contest with at least two major African American contenders. This will be Booker's second trip to the state this month, following a speech in Columbia on MLK Day.
It was a dramatic change of message from a governor who has faced calls from his own party to step down after the emergence of the photo, which showed a man in blackface standing next to a person in a KKK costume. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; the NAACP and Planned Parenthood.