Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) dropped out of several planned public appearances this week as he continues to reject calls for his resignation over a racist photo of him wearing blackface.
Northam, who has mostly kept a low profile since the yearbook photo ballooned into a major scandal engulfing several top state lawmakers more than two months ago, will not speak at the May 16 commencement ceremony of his alma mater, the Virginia Military Institute, or any other graduation events this spring, The Roanoke Times reported Monday.
“In order to ensure that commencements remain focused on celebrating graduates, their families, and their achievements, the governor has decided he will not participate in any ceremonies this spring,” Northam’s spokeswoman told the newspaper.
Northam on Sunday canceled a planned appearance at a fundraiser for state Sen. David Marsden (D) because of protesters, according to The Washington Post. His office cited “concerns for the safety and security of everyone in attendance.”
Northam apologized on Feb. 1 for appearing in the racist photo, resurfaced from his 1980s medical school yearbook. A day later, he said at a bizarre press conference that he wasn’t in the photo, but admitted he had worn blackface on a different occasion while impersonating singer Michael Jackson for a contest.
After avoiding public events, Northam has emerged in recent weeks, appearing with other Virginia Democrats and embarking on a “reconciliation tour” with black community leaders and civil rights organizations.
He was forced to cancel his first event on the tour, a trip to a historically black college, after student leaders asked him to reschedule.
In addition to Northam, state Attorney General Mark Herring (D) has been holding onto office after admitting he wore blackface in college.
Separately, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) has repeatedly denied sexual assault allegations by two women, Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, and continues to resist calls for his resignation.
A poll last week from the Wason Center of Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Virginia found that while approval ratings for all three leaders have dropped, less than half of respondents said they should resign.