All three evening newscasts on Friday led with the news that Virginia’s Democratic Governor included a racist photo in his medical school yearbook. However, ABC and NBC warned viewers that the 1984 picture, which feature a man in a KKK outfit and another in blackface, “surfaced on a far-right,” “conservative” website. Additionally, none of the networks noted that, separately, Northam used the racist nickname “coonman.”
On the NBC Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt opened the show by announcing, “Shockwaves from an explosive racist photo unearthed. A powerful governor's yearbook page revealed late today showing a person in blackface and another as a member of the KKK. There are immediate calls for him to resign.”
Rather than focus exclusively on the racism of Northam, who was 25 at the time of the KKK picture, reporter Hallie Jackson alerted viewers about the website where the story broke: “The picture originally surfaced on a far-right website that often promotes conspiracy theories and was quickly circulated by the Virginia Republican Party.”
Over on ABC’s World News Tonight, guest anchor Tom Llamas also singled out Big League Politics: “An explosive image surfacing from his medical yearbook page in 1984. The page shows two men, one man in black face, another as the member of Ku Klux Klan. It was first posted by a conservative website just a short time ago.”
Reporter David Kerley circled back to Northam’s other controversy this week, where he appeared to support infanticide during a discussion of abortion: “Governor Northam’s office saying his abortion comment that we just heard have been taken out of context and that he obviously doesn’t support the killing an infant."
On the CBS Evening News, reporter Chip Reid tried to remind viewers of images other than the KKK and blackface: “As a politician, Northam has earned a reputation as a strong supporter of civil rights.” Reid noted, “Northam was at the center of another explosive controversy after he was accused by Republicans of support be infanticide after he made comments defending legislation to lift restrictions on late-term abortions.”
The local Richmond ABC station reported a second racist connection to Northam. It turns out his VMI picture features the caption "coonman." None of the networks covered this angle. The [Norfolk] Virginian-Pilot also has more.
Transcripts from all three segments can be found below. Click "expand" to read more.
NBC Nightly News
LESTER HOLT: Shockwaves from an explosive racist photo unearthed. A powerful governor's yearbook page revealed late today showing a person in blackface and another as a member of the KKK. There are immediate calls for him to resign.
7:01:55PM to 7:04:12
2 minutes and 17 seconds
HOLT: Breaking tonight, a racist yearbook photo taken over three decades ago has surfaced, leaving Virginia's Democratic governor facing some serious questions about his past. This picture of two unidentified individuals, one painted in blackface, the other in a KKK robe and hood, appears on the 1984 medical school yearbook page of current Virginia governor Ralph Northam. The photo roiling Virginia politics tonight and triggering calls for Northam's resignation. Hallie Jackson has more on this developing story.
HALLIE JACKSON: A decades-old yearbook page suddenly in the spotlight tonight because of this picture of two people, one in blackface, the other in a KKK hood. The page belongs to Ralph Northam. He's now the Democratic governor of Virginia. That's him in the tie in 1984, the year he graduated from the Eastern Virginia Medical School. It's not clear who the two people in the photo are. The picture originally surfaced on a far-right website that often promotes conspiracy theories and was quickly circulated by the Virginia Republican Party. Conservatives already furious after Northam's comments on a controversial late-term abortion bill being considered in the Virginia state legislature. Northam suggested this week he might look at the bill if it made it to his desk.
NORTHAM: We want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions. We want the decision to be made by the mothers and their providers. And this is why, Julie, that legislators, most of whom are men, by the way, shouldn't be telling a woman what she should and shouldn't be doing with her body.
HOLT: Northam now faces new political pressure. The head of Virginia's Republican Party saying, “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.” And just moments ago the Governor released a statement confirming he is in that photograph in a costume he describes as clearly racist and offensive, although he did not specify which person he is. Northam says, “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 adds, “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career.” The Virginia governor also offering what he called his sincerest apology. Lester?
World News Tonight
TOM LLAMAS: The race controversy breaking late today involving the Virginia governor. A picture on his yearbook page showing one person dressed in black face, another dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Already calls for him to resign.
6:31:51 to 6:34:07
2 minutes and 16 seconds
LLAMAS: We begin tonight with late breaking development involving Virginia's Governor, Ralph Northam. An explosive image surfacing from his medical yearbook page in 1984. The page shows two men, one man in black face, another as the member of Ku Klux Klan. It was first posted by a conservative website just a short time ago. The governor admitting one of those men is him. ABC’s David Kerley leads us off.
DAVID KERLEY: Calls tonight for Virginia's governor to resign because of this photo. One person in black face. One in a Ku Klux Klan robe. It is part of Democrat Ralph Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page. While the other pictures show Northam in a hat and sitting against a corvette, he is not identified in the photo in question. Virginia Republican leaders saying tonight, "Racism has no place in Virginia and if Northam is in that picture, he should resign immediately." It comes as Northam, who is also a doctor, under fire for his comments in support of a Virginia bill that would lift restrictions on late term abortions.
RALPH NORTHAM: It's done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that is non-viable. So in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what will happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.
KERLEY: Conservatives accusing Northam of essentially supporting infanticide.
LLAMAS: David Kerley joins us now tonight. Governor Northam’s office saying his abortion comment that we just heard have been taken out of context and that he obviously doesn’t support the killing an infant. David, I want to focus what just happened tonight. Moments ago, Governor Northam releasing a very different statement about the black face photo.
KERLY: About the photo with the black face and the Ku Klux Klan robe. He said, “I'm deeply sorry for the decision to appear in that photo.” He said it's clearly racist and offensive. As far as the calls for him to resign, he did not say he would. He said it would take time and serious effort to heal. Tom?
LLAMAS: David Kerley with those explosive developments tonight.
CBS Evening News
6:35:19 to 6:37:17
1 minute and 58 seconds
JEFF GLOR: Virginia's Republican Chairman today called for Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to resign. That was after an old yearbook of Northam's turned up with a racist picture on his page. Just a short time ago, he apologized for it. Chip Reid is following this story.
CHIP REID: This photograph showing a smiling man in what has been described as blackface, and another person in a Ku Klux Klan robe and mask son the 1984 yearbook page of Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam. Northam is one of the people pictured. Northam graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1984 before running for office, he practiced pediatric neurology. A school official says it is unknown if students chose the photos for their own yearbook pages. As a politician, Northam has earned a reputation as a strong supporter of civil rights. But the chairman of the Republican party of Virginia said in a statement today, "Racism has no place in Virginia. These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KK. robe, he should resign immediately.”
RALPH NORTHAM: I think this was really blown out of proportion.
REID: Earlier this week, Northam was at the center of another explosive controversy after he was accused by Republicans of support be infanticide after he made comments defending legislation to lift restrictions on late-term abortions. Late today, Northam issued a statement in which he said, "Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive. 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." But he gave no indication that he intends to resign. Jeff.