Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will not appear Thursday at what was supposed to be the first stop on his racial “reconciliation tour,” after the college he’d planned to visit asked him not to come.
Northam has faced scrutiny since Feb. 1 when it was found he’d appeared in blackface in a 1984 college yearbook. Northam planned the reconciliation event at Virginia Union University, a historically black college, to mark 60 years since students protested segregation in Richmond.
Jamon Phenix, president of the school’s student government association, wrote Northam a letter Monday asking him not to come.
The governor responded in a statement posted to Twitter.
“I appreciate the original invitation of VUU’s administration, but I will abide by the students’ wishes,” Northam wrote. “I accept the Student Government Association’s invitation for the future dialogue and honest conversations on issues of race, reconciliation and equity.”
Northam said he admires the actions of the “Richmond 34,” who stood up to segregation decades ago. In lieu of his attendance at the chapel service Thursday, he said he’d host the civil rights activists at the Executive Mansion in Richmond Friday to honor their bravery and courage.
While I appreciate @VAUnion1865’s invitation to attend tomorrow’s chapel service, I respect the wishes of the student body. In lieu of my attendance, I will host the Richmond 34 at the Executive Mansion on Friday to honor their bravery and courage. pic.twitter.com/qIdX05cvsa- Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) February 20, 2019
Both Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have faced a backlash after it was revealed this month they appeared in old party photos in blackface.
A University of Virginia Center for Politics/Ipsos poll of Virginia adults showed 31 percent want Northam to resign and 43 percent said he shouldn’t. For Herring, who has eyes on running for governor in 2021, 19 percent called for him to resign and 14 percent said he should be impeached.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is also entangled in scandal. He faces stronger calls to resign after two women accused him of sexual harassment years ago. Fairfax said both encounters were consensual.
The Virginia/Ipsos poll showed 35 percent want Fairfax to resign, a quarter of respondents want him to stay and 34 percent were unsure.
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