Investigators hired by Eastern Virginia Medical School were not able to identify the two individuals depicted in an offensive photograph on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook page, the school announced Wednesday.
The picture, which shows one person in blackface makeup and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume, provoked near-universal condemnation by state and national Democrats when it first surfaced in February, almost upending Northam’s political career.
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But Northam survived the episode and remained in the governor’s mansion as another blackface scandal enveloped Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and as sexual assault allegations were leveled against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax just days later.
“With respect to the Photograph on Governor Northam’s personal page, we could not conclusively determine the identity of either individual depicted in the Photograph,” the McGuireWoods law firm, which conducted the medical school’s inquiry, wrote in its report.
“No individual that we interviewed has told us from personal knowledge that the Governor is in the Photograph, and no individual with knowledge has come forward to us to report that the Governor is in the Photograph,” the report says.
Northam at first admitted to being one of the two people in the photo. But at a news conference the following day, he reversed his position — saying he was not in the picture — and then admitted to wearing blackface makeup in 1984 to impersonate Michael Jackson at a San Antonio dance competition.
Five days after Northam’s yearbook photo shocked Richmond, Herring admitted to wearing blackface makeup to portray a rapper at a college costume party in 1980. Herring had previously called on Northam to resign.
Within that same week, college professor Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Another woman, Meredith Watson, also accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her when the two attended Duke University in 2000. Fairfax has denied the allegations.
Northam, Herring and Fairfax all remain in office.