(Bloomberg) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he "was not going anywhere", but the Democratic lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, may not be able to resign if the charges of sexual assault were deemed true.
"These charges are very, very serious," Northam said in an interview broadcast in part as part of Sunday's "Face the Nation." "They must be taken seriously."
These comments come after a week of unrest in the Commonwealth, which according to an opinion poll shows that residents are equally divided on the best course of action for the highest elected authorities in Virginia and that the president Donald Trump and other Republicans are also involved.
The meeting with CBS was the first televised interview of the Democratic governor since the publication of a racist photo in his 1984 medical yearbook on February 1, pushing the most Democrats to demand the resignation of Northam. In his interview with CBS and Saturday's Good Medical, he promised to finish his four-year term and use his time to pursue a program of racial reconciliation.
Virginia "needs some strong, empathic, courageous and moral compass," Northam told CBS. "That's why I'm not going anywhere."
Calls to resign
Most of the Democratic Congressional and National Democrat delegations in Virginia, including the presidential candidates of 2020, called for the resignation of the governor after the publication of the racist photo.
"I know that he wants to rehabilitate his reputation and even his sense of what he called his moral compass," said Democratic Representative Don Beyer of Virginia in a separate interview on "Face the Nation." ". "But he sacrificed so much his ability to govern effectively. "
Northam's page in his medical school yearbook showed one person in black and one in Ku Klux Klan, but he said none of them were. Northam said at a press conference held last week that he had already darkened the skin to participate in a Michael Jackson dance contest. Since then, state attorney General Mark Herring has also admitted to appearing at the Blackface while at the University of Virginia in 1980.
In the interview with Saturday's Good Medical, Northam could not explain why he had initially taken responsibility for the 1984 photo, but had returned in the day – other than saying that he had been "shocked" when he had seen her for the first time. on an iPhone.
While Northam refuses, Fairfax is increasingly in a hurry to resign as a result of two allegations of sexual assault.
"I can only imagine that women need to be very brave enough to take a step forward – and talk about those things that hurt so much," Northam told CBS. these charges are deemed true, I do not think he will have any other choice than to resign. "
Democrat leaders have called for Fairfax's resignation, and a state legislator has announced that he will begin impeachment proceedings if this does not happen. Fairfax has asked the FBI to investigate the complaints of assault against him. For its part, Duke University said it was investigating a sexual assault allegation dating back to 2000 and presided over by a former basketball player, who had been made by one of Fairfax's accused women.
Northam told The Good Medical that he had asked his cabinet secretaries to come up with specific proposals to address issues of inequality, such as expanding access to health care, housing and transportation, and start reporting on these suggestions on Monday.
& # 39; Work to do & # 39;
"It is clear from what has happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do," he said. "There are still very deep wounds in Virginia, and particularly in the area of equity."
Republicans, including Trump, have predicted that the scandal among Virginia's top Democratic leaders will give them the opportunity to make political gains in a state that has increasingly voted for Democrats in the last election.
Trump tweeted Sunday about the "double standard" in Virginia, where white officials who admitted to wearing the blackface are now on trial against the highest ranking African-American.
Democratic lawmakers in Virginia called on Fairfax to resign, as did Democratic senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey – both presidential candidates in 2020 – among others.
Democrat Patrick Hope, a lawmaker from the state of Virginia, said he was considering filing recall articles against Fairfax if he did not resign. On Friday, the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association removed Fairfax from power, appointing officials from Delaware and Washington State.
Nevertheless, a survey conducted for the Good Medical from February 6 to 8 revealed that residents were divided on the fate of Northam, with 47% wanting it to resign and an equal number of people asking it to stay. Support was more important for Northam among black residents, who by a margin of 58% to 37% said that he should serve his sentence. The white inhabitants were divided more evenly, according to the survey.
Additional parts of the interview with Northam should be broadcast on Monday on "CBS This Morning," the network announced.
– With the help of Erik Wasson and Meghan Genovese.
To contact the reporter on this story: Hailey Waller in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors in charge of this story: James Ludden at email@example.com, Mark Niquette
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