Category Archives: Scandals

More Blackface Backlash

Governor Ralph Northam seems to be weathering the blackface scandal, but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to suffer fallout from the P.R. debacle. The Virginia Southern Christian Leadership Conference is launching a statewide tour to address issues arising from revelations of a photograph of a person dressed in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan garb on Northam’s profile page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) yearbook.

Rev. William Keen, the organization’s president, said the SCLC believes more needs to be done to investigate the controversial picture appearing on Northam’s medical yearbook page, reports WSLS television. The article provided no details on what Keen found lacking in Northam’s denials that he was the figure in blackface.

(A good place to start would be to request answers from the governor arising from new evidence that the yearbook photo shows him attired in a Michael Jackson costume.)

Meanwhile, the Richmond Free-Press, an independent newspaper geared to Richmond’s African-American community, quotes representatives of several African-American organizations as demanding the Northam atone for the racial sins he committed 35 years ago. Continue reading

Update: Northam in Michael Jackson Costume

I have expanded the photographic evidence and commentary in my previous post, in which I argued that the figure in the infamous Eastern Virginia Medical Society yearbook photo was Ralph Northam costumed as Michael Jackson. I wrote the original post as a lark, but after digging deeper, I am 95% certain that my theory is correct. The post is definitely worth re-reading. I would welcome feedback on the plausibility of my interpretation.

Update: I have made even more extensive revisions to the previous post. In addition to buttressing the case that Northam posed as Michael Jackson in the blackface photo, I have added the following sections:

  • Cherchez la femme!
  • Fat legs, skinny legs
  • Bad teeth, worse photo
  • A Bud in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • Questions of chronology
  • An alternative narrative

The Blackface Photo: Northam as Michael Jackson

Governor Ralph Northam astonished the world at a press conference earlier this year when he denied appearing in blackface in a notorious 1984 medical school-yearbook photo — and then volunteered that he had darkened his skin that same year as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a dance contest.

The governor was widely mocked at the time for this admission and his seeming willingness to demonstrate the superstar’s signature moonwalk move in front of the cameras. However, a recently issued report by the McGuire Woods law firm was unable to find conclusive evidence that the governor appeared in the photograph, and, politically, the controversy seemed destined to fade away.

I beg to differ. My reading of the report finds that the law firm left many avenues of inquiry unexplored. Most significantly, the report failed to consider what be the most plausible interpretation of the photo: The figure in blackface was Northam dressed up as Michael Jackson!

Consider some points of similarity with the photo of Jackson below, taken in 1984:

Michael Jackson is wearing sunglasses. The figure in the photo is wearing sunglasses.

Michael Jackson is wearing a broad-rimmed hat. The figure in the photo is wearing a broad-rimmed hat.

In the photo to the left, Jackson’s hat is black, not white like that worn by the figure in blackface. But Jackson donned a wide variety of head wear, including a white fedora with a dark band that closely matches the hat worn by the figure in blackface.

A photo of that fedora, with Jackson’s signature, can be seen in a Pinterest photo, posted by the MJJC Legacy Team Project dedicated to “honouring, preserving & defending the legacy of Michael Jackson.”

Another point of similarity: the bow tie. Continue reading

Blackface Scandal: The Case for and Against Northam


There is plenty of evidence in the McGuire Woods report on the Northam/Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) blackface scandal to confirm whatever prejudices and preconceptions you had beforehand. If you believe that Governor Ralph Northam was not one of the figures in the infamous EVMS school yearbook photo, there are plausible though inconclusive arguments to support your view. If you believe he was, there are equally plausible-but-inconclusive arguments to back you up.

This morning I read the portions of the report (which you can access here), that pertain to Northam. (I skipped the lengthy sections probing EVMS’s commitment to “diversity and inclusion” since the 1980s.) My two main conclusions:

  1. The investigation, though extensive, was far from exhaustive. The investigators neglected to pursue lines of inquiry that would have added important context.
  2. Regardless of whether Northam was one of the two figures in the notorious photo, the odds are strong that he submitted the photo to the yearbook.

Herewith, I present what I believe are the most salient facts and arguments on both sides. Continue reading

Corruption Allegations Mar Fairfax County Board Race

Supervisor Jeff McKay, photo credit – WAMU

I’m shocked, shocked to find that there’s gambling going on here. Long time residents of Fairfax County will hardly be shocked to hear the news of a Fairfax County Supervisor being accused of unsavory business dealings with a land developer. Jeff McKay has been Lee District supervisor since 2007. He is currently vying for the top spot in Fairfax County – chair of the board. McKay, who faces opposition from three Democrats and one Republican for the office, has been accused of trading a political favor for a personal real-estate deal. As befitting the county which is home to the CIA, those allegations were surfaced through a lengthy anonymous legal memo circulated to the county attorney and the other members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. American University radio station WAMU broke the story yesterday.

To be very clear, these are allegations which may be true, partly true or (as McKay represents) a wholly untrue political attack. Supervisor McKay deserves to be considered innocent until proven otherwise.

Continue reading

More Great Moments in Virginia Governance

Former Front Royal-Warren County EDA chief, Jennifer McDonald

Front Royal hanky panky. The Commonwealth Attorney of Warren County has asked to convene a special grand jury to probe “possible criminal activity” by the former executive director, Jennifer McDonald, of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, reports the Northern Virginia Daily. The request follows the Tuesday filing of a $17.6 million lawsuit by the EDA against nine defendants alleging financial improprieties including loans, use of lines of credit for certain projects, and authorization of work and purchase agreements of which the board was ignorant. “We, like many others, were misled and unaware of the extent and magnitude of this scheme,” said that board in a statement.

Meanwhile, back in the City of Richmond…

Sloppy accounting. An audit of Richmond city finances discovered poor accounting practices going back to the tenure of former Mayor Dwight C. Jones. Reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch: The audit “also found problems with the figures [Mayor Levar] Stoney’s administration said it had reconciled and released last summer.” Five of six accounts tied to school maintenance and construction did not have accurate balances, the result of erroneous or inappropriate charges and other sloppiness in accounting.” Continue reading

Ralph Northam and the Sins of His Fathers

1859 Accomack County census reveals that James Northam, Ralph’s paternal great-great-grandfather, owned nine slaves.

Liberals and progressives routinely accuse conservatives of being racist. But conservatives can’t match liberals and progressives for their all-consuming obsession with race. The latest example is an article in Spectator USA delving into the ancestry of Governor Ralph Northam, highlighting the fact that his ancestors owned at least 84 slaves.

Author J. Arthur Bloom does not argue that the sins of the father are to be laid on the children, but he does find implausible a claim by Northam that he learned about his family’s slave ownership only in 2017. “That story is harder to believe once you see that three out of the four grandparental lines of his family owned slaves. Two branches owned at least two dozen.”

The reason why this matters is Gov. Northam claims to have found out about this from his father, Westcott Northam. Westcott’s grandparents would have been the children of the slave owners listed in these census records. In all three cases, the Northam descendent a generation below the owner listed in the census records – Northam’s great-grandparents – probably would have grown up around their father’s slaves also. Is it really plausible that the family did not talk about any of this before 2017?

I read Bloom’s justification for probing Northam’s ancestry, but I still don’t see why this matters. Continue reading

Who Is Leah Dozier Walker?

Leah Walker

Leah Dozier Walker burst into public view a few days ago when she wrote a letter expressing her upset with Virginia First Lady Pam Northam for inviting Walker’s daughter and two other African-American girls, on a tour of Senate pages in the Governor’s Mansion, to hold a cotton boll and imagine what it would have been like as a slave to pick cotton all day.

“I cannot for the life of me understand why the First Lady would single out the African America pages for this — or — why she would ask them such an insensitive question,” she wrote. “There are no words to convey how horrified I was to hear this account from my daughter and how outraged I am that Mrs. Northam would represent the Commonwealth in this manner.”

The letter, written Feb. 25, unleashed a mini-furor that reveals volumes about the state of mind of a woman who oversees the Office of Equity and Community Engagement at the Virginia Department of Education as well as a news media that eagerly fuels the perception of racial slights and injustice. Continue reading

Fairfax Dons Mantle of Victimhood. It Does Not Fit.

Justin Fairfax and the media

About a month ago Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax came under a barrage of criticism after being accused of sexual assault by two seemingly credible women. Elected Democratic officials across Virginia called for his immediate resignation. He said, wait just a minute, let’s not rush to judgment. Give me a “full, fair, independent, impartial, and non-political investigation by law enforcement.”

Because the alleged crimes took place outside Virginia, they don’t fall under the jurisdiction of Virginia law enforcement authorities. Thus, an investigation by Virginia law-enforcement authorities, which Fairfax called for, isn’t in the cards. Because Fairfax has been charged with no crime, the only practical venue for him to clear his name in the court of public opinion is to allow the accusers to tell their story and for him to offer a defense in a public hearing organized by the General Assembly.

Now Fairfax is equating the GOP’s proposal for legislative hearings with Jim Crow-era lynchings. Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, according to the Virginia Mercury, he said: Continue reading

Should Northam Resign… or Just Submit?

William J. Barber II

It is fascinating to see how the demand that “Governor Ralph Northam must resign” mantra is morphing into “Northam must pay penance by adopting Leftist causes.” Specifically, he needs to shut down the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed compressor station in Buckingham County.

Civil rights activist Rev. William J. Barber II, who is accompanying former Vice President Al Gore to the Union Hill community in Buckingham today, said Monday that Northam’s challenge is more about overcoming the blackface/Ku Klux Klan photo he displayed on his medical school yearbook page 35 years ago and more about changing public policy, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“The governor has turned his back on this community,” said Barber, former president of the North Carolina NAACP. “If he wants to do a reconciliation tour, he should first go to Union Hill.” Continue reading

More Ralph-Northam Hypocrisy from the Left

Ibrahim Samirah

Two weeks ago Ibraheem Samirah, a second-generation Palestinian running for an open seat in the 86th district of the House of Delegates, joined other Democrats in calling for the resignation of Governor Ralph Northam for appearing in black face in 1984. Now, it turns out, Samirah has to answer for some intemperate remarks he made five years ago about Jews.

Samirah has kinda-sorta apologized for saying on Facebook that sending money to Israel is “worse” than sending money to the Ku Klux Klan, that Israeli teenagers used Tinder to “cover up the murders in their name,” and that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would burn in hell — assuming that calling the charges against him a “slander campaign” constitutes an apology. Continue reading

Race, Hypocrisy and Bare-Knuckle Politics

Wes Bellamy at Richmond rally

A group calling itself Virginia Black Politicos rallied near the Governor’s Mansion yesterday and called for the resignation of Governor Ralph Northam. Prominent among the speakers was Charlottesville City Council member Wes Bellamy, who, according to WVIR TV, said it was time for the governor to step down so that Virginians can heal.

“What will we tell them that we did in regard to stand up for white supremacy?” Bellamy said. “What will we tell them and their colleagues and their pupils in school that we did in the year 2019 when our governor decided to make fun of our people.”

This is the same Wes Bellamy who was called out in 2016 for making racist comments of his own. As the Washington Post summarized the controversy back then, the then-30-year-old stepped down from a position on the Virginia Board of Education when it was revealed that in 2011 he had tweeted gay slurs, made light of sexual assault, and made anti-white comments.   Continue reading

Northam’s Apology Tour: Reconciling with the Left

I’ve been somewhat sympathetic to Governor Ralph Northam during his blackface ordeal, arguing (a) that we should not reach a judgment until all the facts were in, and (b) that we should not judge a man solely upon the basis of an act committed 35 years ago but upon his lifetime’s work.

Well, all the facts are in (at least a lot more of the facts than we knew when Northam issued his first mea culpa), and we can say with confidence a couple of things we could not when the blackface fracas began: While it may be true that neither the man in blackface nor the KKK hood in the infamous yearbook photo was Northam, the governor has yet to offer a plausible explanation of how he came to submit that particular photo for publication. The protocol was for Eastern Virginia Medical School students to select their own photos, put them in sealed envelopes and submit them to the publication. Unless someone working for the publication surreptitiously inserted the notorious photo — a claim that no one is making — Northam was the one who selected it. Thus, one can legitimately press the point: Why did he choose that photo? Even if he was not wearing the blackface or KKK hood, it appears that he had no problem publicly associating himself with the people who did. His dissimulation on the subject is as almost as troubling as the offense itself.

Now Northam is embarking upon an apology tour, starting with an appearance next week at Virginia Union University in Richmond. Continue reading

Ralph Northam Panders to Save His Own Skin

Mr. Sincerity

by Hans Bader

It’s unsavory for a politician to try to buy forgiveness from those he has offended with taxpayer dollars. But that is what Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is doing. In an interview with the Washington Post, he announced plans to spend more money on government programs like “affordable housing” in the name of racial “equity” and fighting “white privilege.”

How this would actually benefit black people is unclear. Many wasteful and destructive programs exist in the name of “affordable housing.” Cities like Detroit have blighted and decaying public housing projects that consumed taxpayer money only to end up producing concentrated crime and poverty. One national “affordable housing” program produced 50 rapidly decaying slums, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As Jazz Shaw notes, Northam’s aides are also “saying that he will be focused on things like new legislation to enforce diversity and equality along with pushing through new funding for Virginia’s five historically black colleges and universities.”

Continue reading

The Politics of Empty Symbolism


Every day gets crazier here in Virginia. The politics of symbolism have taken over, and real problems requiring careful analysis and sustained attention go neglected.

For an example of a festering problem with real-world consequences for African-Americans, read the previous post by Richard Hall-Sizemore. An electronic health records system would improve the quality of medical care of Virginia’s prison inmate population, which is disproportionately African-American, but the Commonwealth of Virginia has struggled for years to fund one. The obstacle has not been lack of money but the inability to sort out competing bureaucratic agendas. Meanwhile, Virginians are treated to stories like this…

Governor Ralph Northam, we read on the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, committed the cardinal sin of referring to the first Africans setting foot on Virginia soil as “indentured servants.” They were sold by Dutch slavers, but Virginia law had not yet codified slavery, so, technically, slavery did not exist. As PBS summarized the status of these Africans: “With no slave laws in place, they were initially treated as indentured servants, and given the same opportunities for freedom dues as whites.” Continue reading