Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in an interview that took place Sunday and is set to air on Monday said slaves in America were indentured servants — amid the ongoing controversy over his racist past.
Northam has faced national backlash since it was revealed he wore blackface while he was in college.
He admitted to doing so after a photo surfaced from his medical school yearbook in 1984.
At first he apologized for that photo in a statement — then, the very next day, he said he did not appear in that image and was not responsible for its placement on his yearbook page.
When he referred to slaves as indentured servants during an interview with CBS, the host of the interview immediately corrected the embattled governor.
“We are now at the 400-year anniversary. Just 90 miles from here in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we call now Fort Monroe,” Northam started to say — but CBS host Gayle King interrupted him.
“Also known as slavery,” King said.
Northam promptly agreed with the correction.
He apologized about the yearbook photo, admitted to wearing blackface during a different event — during a dance contest, when he dressed up as Michael Jackson, he said — and said he is committed to learning from his mistakes.
But he doesn’t have any plans to step down as of now despite repeated calls to do so.
“Virginia needs someone that can heal,” Northam also said during the interview. “There’s no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage, and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”
Northam, a pediatric neurologist by profession, first began facing controversy when the photo from his medical school yearbook surfaced in early February.
The picture showed one man wearing blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan uniform.
Northam at first admitted to being one of the people in the picture — but later said it was at a different occasion that he wore blackface.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political divide have called on him to step down.
Democratic presidential candidates Julián Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) are among those who have said he should step down.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also has called for him to resign.
NAACP leader Derrick Johnson called for his resignation as well.
Virginia Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would replace him if the governor left office. But Fairfax, too, his facing his own controversies at the moment, with two women accusing him of sexual assault.
And the third political leader in line in the state, Democrat Mark Herring, is also facing a separate controversy of his own.
Virginia Democratic delegate Patrick Hope recently sent his colleagues a draft resolution that would begin impeachment proceedings against Fairfax, reported The New York Times — but then he backed off those plans, saying more “conversation” was needed.
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