During Friday’s AC360, the eponymous host and his panel reacted to the breaking news of the evening surrounding Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and a racist yearbook photo from his medical shool. Not surprisingly, Democratic Strategist Bakari Sellers condemned Northam and called on him to resign.
But he also used the opportunity to lump in Northam with the kids at Covington Catholic High School, who faced accusations of racism later proven unwarranted: “We were talking about the Covington Catholic kids and their behavior being appalling and unacceptable and the way they interacted with the Native American at the Lincoln Memorial.”
First of all, the Covington Catholic kids hardly “interacted with the Native American at the Lincoln Memorial” at all. As they endured name-calling by Black Hebrew Isrealites, Nathan Phillips, came over and started banging a drum in the kids’ faces while most stood there peacefully. As it turns out, the only crime the Covington kids committed was wearing Make America Great Again hats, which some talking heads equate with KKK hoods.
Sellers also brought up Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and “and his yearbooks and the things that he did then that were unacceptable,” apparently forgetting that no hard evidence exists to prove Kavanaugh’s alleged wrongdoing, in contrast to Northam’s situation.
Sellers also took a shot at President Trump: “I can’t even criticize the President of the United States for being racist if I can’t criticize Governor Northam for dressing up in KKK garb when he was 25 years old.”
While The Washington Post has rushed to Northam’s defense, specifically citing the fact that Northam has a black pastor, that just didn’t cut it for Sellers and the rest of the panel. According to Sellers, “And, you know, his response was that, oh my God, I’m just going to, I’m going to issue this response, give a speech on race, probably trot out my black pastor and after all of that goes through, then I’ll be able to continue to lead this, lead the commonwealth of Virginia. That’s just not the case anymore.”
While Sellers once again tried to paint President Trump as a racist by referring to him as one of the “cancers” of the Republican Party, he correctly noted that “I think Democrats have to say that if we’re going to hold Republicans accountable for the cancers that are in their party....then this is not acceptable either,” referring to Northam.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s Anderson Cooper 360 is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Anderson Cooper 360
08:09 p.m. Eastern
ANDERSON COOPER: Joining us now is former Democratic South Carolina state legislator, Bakari Sellers, former Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, also Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist and CNN Political Analyst. Bakari, what do you make of this, of the Democratic leader in the State Senate essentially defending the governor. Do you think the governor should resign?
BAKARI SELLERS: No question. I mean, I think unequivocally, Democrats have to stand up and call for his resignation. I mean, I mean, damn, Anderson, it’s exasperating. It’s exhausting. Can people just simply not be racist? I mean, he’s a 25-year-old man in black face or in a KKK outfit. I mean, neither one of those are acceptable. You know, the KKK, all they did was terrorize, lynch, brutalize many African-Americans throughout the south. You don’t get a pass for that. And just a few months ago, I was sitting on probably with Ken Cuccinelli talking about Kavanaugh and his yearbooks and the things that he did then that were unacceptable. We were talking about the Covington Catholic kids and their behavior being appalling and unacceptable and the way they interacted with the Native American at the Lincoln Memorial. And so, for Democrats, for any Democrat who is saying out of one side of their mouth that he was a child, I mean, I am tired of that. You know, it’s, it’s tough because simply… we have no place in this country for racism and bigotry and xenophobia and all those things that it represents. And, you know, for someone who’s a grown man to display that, I mean, yeah, you can be sorry, you can apologize, you can live your life and make sure that, that people understand your point of view from henceforth forward. However, you cannot be the leader of a state like Virginia with its past history with those issues in your past. I mean, we can make light of the fact that the oppo research people from the Gillespie campaign and the Perriello campaign need to never have a job again, but the fact is this, this lapse in judgment is, it’s exhausting. I mean, we have racial issues. I can’t even criticize the President of the United States for being a racist if I can’t criticize Governor Northam for dressing up in KKK garb when he was 25 years old.
COOPER: Ken, I mean, do you think the Governor’s resignation is inevitable? And you would know better than anyone, if he refuses to resign, how easily could he actually be removed from office?
KEN CUCCINELLI: Well, it is not easy to remove someone from office anymore at the state level than at the federal. You’d have to have the Speaker and the President Pro Temp of the Senate both address his inability to perform his job and, and I don’t think he’s at that point. The real question is, can he do anything in the role of governor any longer? I mean, this is, this is extraordinary and mind you, this comes during the same week in which he went on Washington radio and more or less said that he was okay with letting a child born alive die on the table. Mind you this is a pediatrician. Governor Northam is a, has treated children as a doctor. And he was defending a bill that most Americans would find extreme that would allow abortion up to the moment of birth when he made those remarks. That has been explosive in Virginia this week. And then this happened, right on top of it. And for those of you outside Virginia, the next four days are the most intense four days in the entire calendar year for the general assembly and the governor. They are approaching cross…what’s called crossover on Tuesday when all the bills have to be out of either the House or Senate. Virginia has the shortest session in the country and it’s over later this month. The governor is normally deeply enmeshed in that as well as the budget, as you might imagine, over these next four days. And now, he is contending with this and through only his own fault. I would also note for your listeners, the Lieutenant Governor is also a Democrat. He happens to be African-American, Justin Fairfax. So if the Governor does resign, there is no loss to the Democrats of the position. And, in fact, because Virginia is the only state where a governor cannot run for re-election, Ralph Northam will never have to stand for election again, and Justin Fairfax actually could run…
COOPER: That’s interesting.
CUCCINELLI: …in 2021 for governor having not been previously elected as governor…
CUCCINELLI: …which would amount to re-electing him. So, there are, there’s…
COOPER: That’s interesting.
CUCCINELLI: …some serious political questions for the Democrats here.
COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, if Justice Kavanaugh’s yearbook was fair game for Democrats, you know, how can they defend Northam?
KRISTEN POWERS: Well, I just would like to clarify that. The problem with Justice Kavanaugh actually wasn’t his yearbook. The problem with Justice Kavanaugh was that he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman. The yearbook came into play when he started presenting himself as somebody who was sort of this choir boy and people started looking at the yearbook and saying, like, is that really true? I don’t really see that in your yearbook. So, to sort of, I just want to clarify that we’re having some major revisionist history on the part of the Republicans. So, I think that this issue is about something that’s incredibly abhorrent. I mean, looking at that picture, there is really no time frame where that was ever okay. And it obviously wasn’t okay in the 1980s. For me, I think, you want people to change. The whole point of us having these conversations, of raising consciousness about race, is that you want people to change. And if he legitimately changed, if he legitimately had some conversion point after this and he could point to that and he could say I’m so ashamed and I could not believe that I did this and this was a long time ago and I was 25 years old and yes that’s more than, better than being 18 but it’s still relatively young. And I met this person and I learned and I have gone out of my way to repent for this and to become a different person, I would be interested in that story. I did not hear that from him. The way that he has responded does seem like that. And so, unless he can show that and show the receipts for what he did to change, then, yeah, he needs to step down.
COOPER: It’s also interesting, Bakari, because he obviously knew this was out there. I mean, you know, he’s aware of what he had done. He knew plenty of people had this yearbook. This must be something that has entered his mind from time to time. You would think he would have already kind of thought through how to either, you know, bring this up himself and, you know, throw himself on the mercy of voters or, you know, at least have a better or some sort of explanation, to Kirsten’s point, when this did emerge.
SELLERS: I wholeheartedly agree with Kirsten. But let’s think about this. This was 1984, if I’m not mistaken, he was 25 years old. And, you know, you’re talking about the, the height of when Jesse Jackson is running for President of the United States. I’m not understanding how this is acceptable to anyone, any Democrat or any Republican or any just person who has good common sense. You have a 25-year-old man who made this decision. And that is not one that we can stand by, especially as governor. And so yes, I will echo the same thing that the NAACP said earlier that he has to resign. So, yeah, so Justin Fairfax will be Governor. We can continue this process of healing. And one of the things that Governor Northam can do is he can be a part of the discussions that we try to have on a regular basis, healthy discussions about race in this country. And, you know, his response was that, oh my God, I’m just going to, I’m going to issue this response, give a speech on race, probably trot out my black pastor and after all of that goes through, then I’ll be able to continue to lead this, lead the commonwealth of Virginia. That’s just not the case anymore. And people are exhausted and people are tired of this and I think Democrats have to say that if we’re going to hold Republicans accountable for the cancers that are in their party, the Steve Kings that are in the party, the Donald Trumps that are in their party, then this is not acceptable either.
COOPER: Ken, I mean, Northam defeated Ed Gillespie, the former RNC Chairman, how could, I mean, I guess how could Gillespie’s campaign not have found this?
CUCCINELLI: Wow. Well, I think it may be just that people don’t really think of yearbooks as fair game, although I don’t know many political consultants who think in terms of fair game. So, I’m not, I’m not quite sure on that one.
COOPER: I honestly, I didn’t even know medical, I didn’t know medical schools had yearbooks. So maybe I…
CUCCINELI: Had yearbooks.
SELLERS: Can I, can I comment on that one though?
COOPER: Yeah, go ahead.
SELLERS: Can I comment on that real quick, Anderson?
COOPER: Yeah. Sure.
SELLERS: Anderson, one of the things that sticks out in this story is you have someone in the mid-1980s who took a picture in a KKK garb in blackface…
CUCCINELLI: While Doug Wilder was running for lieutenant governor.
SELLERS: …and the medical school…
SELLERS: And the medical school thought it wise to still publish that.
COOPER: Right. Well, that’s the other thing.
SELLERS: Right. I don’t understand how people look at this and say, oh, my God. So when people…I mean, if you take a step back and people talk about systemic racism, I know I’m going in the weeds and everything else, when you have a medical school that allows a picture like this to be published in their yearbook and no one sees anything wrong with that in the ‘80s, then when I say we are not that far removed from our past which is strangling us and which is troublesome, which is called racism, then you cannot disagree with that point.
COOPER: Bakari Sellers, Ken Cuccinelli, Kirsten Powers, appreciate it. Thank you.