US Governor apologises for racist yearbook photo

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has apologised after his 1984 medical yearbook page emerged, showing a photo featuring men in racist costumes.

The picture showed a man in blackface and another man in Ku Klux Klan robes. It appeared on a page with other photos of Northam as well as personal details about him, the BBC reported.

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” he said in a statement.

The yearbook page, which came from the paediatric neurologist’s time at Eastern Virginia Medical School, was first published by conservative website Big League Politics.

Mr. Northam had earlier graduated from Virginia Military Institute.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper tweeted a picture of the page which it said it obtained from the medical school library.

Black politicians in Virginia called the image “disgusting” and Republicans urged Mr. Northam to resign.

“This behaviour is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service.

“But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment,” the governor said in a statement after the image was made public.

He continued: “I recognise that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work.

“The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their governor.”

Mr. Northam later released a video statement via Twitter in which he said he was “deeply sorry” for the offence the image had caused.

“I accept responsibility for my past actions and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust,” he added.

He did not elaborate on which costume he was wearing, but said he appeared in a photograph that was “clearly racist and offensive”.

“Racism has no place in Virginia,” a statement by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”