RICHMOND, Va. -- The man who would ascend to the Governor's Mansion should Virginia Governor Ralph Northam resign amid the racist yearbook photo scandal did not call for his boss's resignation. But Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax did not let Northam off the hook in a statement released Saturday afternoon.
"Like so many Virginians, I am shocked and saddened by the images in the Governor's yearbook that came to light yesterday," a statement attributed to Fairfax said. "They are an example of a painful scourge that continues to haunt us today and holds us back from the progress we need to make."
"I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo," Northam said, denying that he had ever worn a KKK robe and hood or been drunk enough to forget a moment like this. "This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam."
Despite numerous calls for him to resign, Northam said he would try to win over those who want him out.
"The Governor needed to apologize, and I am glad that he did so. He also reached out to me personally to express his sincere regrets and to apologize," Fairfax continued. "I have worked closely with Ralph Northam over many years. He has been a friend to me and has treated my family and me with hospitality and respect.
"While his career has been marked by service to children, soldiers, and constituents, I cannot condone the actions from his past that, at the very least, suggest a comfort with Virginia's darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping, and intimidation.
"At this critical and defining moment in the history of Virginia and this nation, we need leaders with the ability to unite and help us rise to the better angels of our nature.
I remain committed to serving and helping to heal the Commonwealth moving forward. Now more than ever, we must make decisions in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Fairfax, a former prosecutor who has been central in Virginia's public conversation about racism, was sworn in as lieutenant governor in 2018 with the manumission -- a document proving the release from slavery -- of his ancestor in his front pocket.