Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told his Cabinet on Friday that he has no plans to resign in the wake of a blackface scandal that has tossed his state’s government into chaos, a source with direct knowledge of the meeting told CNN.
Northam has been under fire for a week after the public reveal of a photo on his medical school yearbook page featuring two individuals in racist costumes – one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam initially apologized and said he was one of the people in the photo, but later recanted in an hourlong news conference, saying he was not in the picture.
The Associated Press first reported Northam’s comments at the Cabinet meeting.
Though Northam defended himself in the news conference last Saturday, he also revealed that he had worn blackface in a separate incident, when he performed dressed as Michael Jackson in a dance competition in the 1980s.
At the news conference last week, Northam signaled he did not plan on resigning.
“I intend to continue doing the business of Virginia,” he said, adding that resigning would be the easier way out.
“I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I could avoid an honest conversation about harmful actions from my past,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience choose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.”
The events over the last week have also brought forward revelations about two of Northam’s potential successors.
If he were to resign, next in line to become governor would be Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is facing two allegations of sexual assault. Third in line would be Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, who also admitted to wearing blackface at a party decades ago.
Since the news conference, Northam’s support among both state and national figures has dwindled. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for his resignation, including both of Virginia’s senators and several US presidential hopefuls.
This story has been updated.