Ralph Northam: Eastern Virginia Medical School speaks on racist yearbook photos

Officials from Eastern Virginia Medical School, which Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam attended, spoke Tuesday about the racist photos that appeared on Northam’s yearbook page, as well as on others over the years. 

The school’s president, Richard Homan, apologized again for photos he called “shockingly racist, repugnant,” “unprofessional” and “inappropriate.” He said that a community advisory board had been created, and an independent law firm, McGuire Woods, would be investigating the publication of the photos, and the two would produce a single report that will be released to the public. He went on to say, however, “I do not need a report to know this was the ultimate responsibility of EVMS.”

Homan said that he has not spoken to Northam, but his staff had come to the school to review some of the yearbooks Friday. Asked how many racist photos appeared in the school’s yearbooks, Homan said his staff was looking he didn’t know, but “one is sufficient for me to be alarmed.”

He raised the possibility that faculty may have been involved in the production of the yearbooks, which were not published after 2013, a year in which Homan said three “troubling” photos appeared in the yearbook. At the time, when the photos had been brought to his attention, Homan said he decided EVMS would no longer publish the yearbook. However, at the same time, students were less interested in purchasing them, Homan noted, adding that he had independently made a decision based on the content alone that the yearbook should no longer be published.

The school has faced an onslaught of criticism since Friday, when Northam’s page in the medical school’s 1984 yearbook was published, showing one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume. Northam initially apologized for appearing in the photo and then the next day said that he did not believe he was either of the two figures in the photo.

He also attributed the appearance of the photo on his page to someone else’s mistake and said he had not seen the yearbook, which he said he did not purchase, until last week. He has been fending off calls to resign by the NAACP as well as national and state Democrats, who swiftly condemned the use of the photo.

Ralph Northam yearbook page

WTKR-3 Brendan Ponton

Homan had apologized earlier, on Saturday, saying, “We share the outrage, alarm and sadness voiced by our alumni, the press and many on social media regarding the picture published in the 1984 student yearbook.” He called the photo “shockingly abhorrent and absolutely antithetical to the principles, morals and values we hold and espouse….Racism and discrimination in any form is not acceptable.”

Since Friday, another classmate of Northam’s was found to be wearing a blackface costume in the same yearbook. According to CBS4 in Denver, Parkview Hospital, in Pueblo, said that Dr. Stephen Nafziger appears in blackface in costume as part of the group The Supremes.

Rob Legare contributed to this report.

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