Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told The Washington Post Saturday he plans to remain in office and focus the remainder of his term on racial "equity."
Northam, a Democrat, has refused calls to step down after an old medial school yearbook photo showing a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit surfaced a week ago. Northam initially apologized for appearing in the photo, which was featured on a page with his name on it, but the next day said he is neither person in the picture.
"It's been a horrific week for Virginia. A lot of individuals across Virginia have been hurt," Northam told the Post, the first interview he's given since news broke. His words appear to also reference two sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax as well as the admission of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring that he wore blackface during a party in college. Fairfax and Herring also are Democrats.
Northam told the Post his was was initially "shocked" at seeing the photos on his yearbook page, and "overreated" at putting out the apology.
"If I had it to do over I would step back and take a deep breath," he said. "It's obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity. There are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entrepreneurship. And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mistakes."