Virginia has been rocked over the past several days with revelations that both Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) dressed in blackface in the 1980s. Among those who called on Northam to resign this week was Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R).
On Thursday, The Virginian-Pilot reported that Norment himself had been the managing editor of the Virginia Military Institute yearbook, The Bomb, in 1968, and that the yearbook featured a number of racist slurs and photos, including pictures of people in blackface.
The report notes that in addition to photos in blackface, “The N-word is used at least once. A student listed as being from Bangkok, Thailand, is referred to as a ‘Chink’ and ‘Jap.’ A blurb under one man’s picture says: ‘He was known as the ‘Barracks Jew’ having his fingers in the finances of the entire Corps.'”
Asked about the yearbook on Thursday, Norment declined to comment, telling the Virginian-Pilot, “The only thing I’m talking about today is the budget.”
On Friday last week, the conservative site Big League Politics published photos from a page dedicated to Northam in his college yearbook, featuring a man in blackface standing next to a man dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes. Norment and other members of the Virginia Senate GOP leadership quickly released a statement the following day, demanding the governor step down after losing “[t]he confidence of the people.”
“The events of this week have convinced us, with sadness and disappointment, that the threshold [for demanding the governor’s resignation] has been met,” they wrote.
Statement of Senate Republican Leaders: pic.twitter.com/vZiX3SCSS0
— VA Senate GOP (@VASenateGOP) February 2, 2019
State GOP chairman Jack Wilson also demanded both Northam’s and Herring’s resignation, saying Wednesday, “Racism has no place in Virginia and dressing up in blackface is wholly unacceptable.”
President Donald Trump weighed in on the controversy Thursday morning — prior to the Virginian-Pilot’s report on Norment — saying “far stronger action” would have been taken if Northam, Herring, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who was accused of sexual assault, were Republican.
“Democrats at the top are killing the Great State of Virginia. If the three failing pols were Republicans, far stronger action would be taken. Virginia will come back HOME Republican) in 2020!” he tweeted.
Neither Trump nor Wilson have yet called for Norment’s resignation.
The Virginia GOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Norment’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: Norment released a statement on Thursday afternoon, saying, “The use of blackface is abhorrent in our society and I emphatically condemn it. As one of seven working on a 359-page yearbook, I cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page.” He added that he is not in any of the racist photos and did not take them himself.