Embattled Northam meets with top officials as he seeks allies

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia also admits he once "darkened" his skin for a Michael Jackson costume.

Posted: Feb 4, 2019 10:24 AM

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam remained in power Monday but is having a difficult time finding allies.

The Democratic chief executive said at an all-staff meeting that he needs more time to decide his path forward after a decades-old racist photo surfaced on his yearbook page, a Virginia Democrat briefed by multiple officials who were in the meeting told CNN. Earlier in the day, Northam oversaw a regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting.

At this point, there is no sign of a rallying around the embattled governor, something that will need to happen if he hopes to meet his own personal standard of staying on only if he can continue to effectively govern. Monday morning, protesters gathered outside the governor's mansion in Richmond.

The Democratic governor hastily called a meeting of his top administration officials of color on Sunday night to see if anyone with deep ties to him would be willing to stand by him during a firestorm of controversy over a decades-old racist photo.

The meeting did not go Northam's way. Not one person during the gathering told the governor that he should stay and fight, a source with knowledge of the conversation said.

Despite calls for Northam's resignation from all sides, GOP Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Kirk Cox told reporters Monday morning that there is no will within the General Assembly to forcibly remove Northam from office and that the current situation does not fall within the two constitutional provisions that allow for a governor to be forcibly removed.

After initially saying Friday night that he was in the photo that appeared on his page of his 1984 medical school yearbook which shows one person dressed in blackface and another in the KKK's signature white hood and robes, Northam is now insistent that he is not one of the two people pictured. He is hoping to convince those under his charge that he be given the opportunity to explain what happened and that the picture does not reflect the person he is.

The governor had hoped a news conference on Saturday afternoon would turn the tide in his favor. He attempted to make the case that he was not the person in the photo, but did admit to appearing in blackface at another time that same year, at a dance competition in San Antonio.

The fallout from the news conference was swift and damning. Many of the prominent leaders who had already called for his resignation renewed that call. The few that had held back then called for him to step down, including the state's two US senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who had been privately encouraging him to resign.

This story has been updated.

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