Virginia's Governorship Is In Turmoil As Northam Faces Calls To Resign
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The turmoil in the Virginia State Capitol is stretching into a fourth day. To catch you up, on Friday, pictures surfaced from Governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook showing one man in a KKK robe and another in blackface. The governor, a Democrat, first apologized for the photos, then he reversed course and denied he was in them. All the while, he has refused to step down from office despite growing calls for him to do so from both sides of the aisle.
NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben joins us now from Richmond. Hi, Danielle.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Has the governor spoken publicly today?
KURTZLEBEN: No, he has not. What we do know is that he met with staff last night. And he met with his Cabinet today. But we don't know what happened in those meetings. He - but despite all of these calls for him to resign, he really hasn't made any public motions that he is willing to do so. So we're just waiting to see.
SHAPIRO: Lots of other people have been talking today. Tell us what other lawmakers there in Richmond have been saying about the governor.
KURTZLEBEN: Right. So the Virginia Democrats have already called for him to resign. Now, today outside of his office, the Republican speaker of the House, Kirk Cox, spoke to reporters. And he was asked if he would go so far as to try to impeach Governor Northam. Now, he made it clear that he really hopes it doesn't come to that and that the bar for that would be very, very high anyway. Here's Kirk.
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KIRK COX: And obviously on impeachment, that's a very high standard. So I think that's why we've called for the resignation. We hope that's what the governor does. I think that would obviously be less pain for everyone.
KURTZLEBEN: In addition to that, when he was asked, he said that Democrats haven't talked to him about impeachment anyway. So the focus right now is still very, very much on wanting Northam to resign.
SHAPIRO: What about other people in Richmond who are not lawmakers? How are folks reacting to this?
KURTZLEBEN: A lot of them are very angry. I mean, especially today, there were around a hundred, maybe more, protesters just outside the governor's mansion and state Capitol once again calling for him to resign, yelling for him to resign. And a lot of these people are people who really supported Northam. They told me, you know, I canvassed for him. I phone banked for him. I really wanted him to win, so I feel, really, like my trust is betrayed. So you have a lot of very angry Democrats here.
Now, aside from that, when you get past the protesters, I did speak to one woman in downtown Richmond today who said she also had supported Northam but that, you know, she's not sure how to feel about him right now. But she also told me that those people who do want him to resign, she said, she sees that. She understands that. And if that is a widespread sentiment, that doesn't bode well for Northam - if even the people who are ambivalent are willing to err on the side of the people who want him to resign.
SHAPIRO: Now, if he did step down, the lieutenant governor would become governor, and that's a man named Justin Fairfax, who is facing controversy himself today. Fill us in with what's happening there.
KURTZLEBEN: Right. So Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor, very early this morning tweeted a denial of some sexual assault allegations that just came out. Now, those allegation are of an incident that allegedly took place in 2004, and they were published by a website called Big League Politics. Now, listeners may remember that that's the same conservative website that first published that photo of Northam's yearbook page from medical school. Now, we should add here that we haven't heard anything from the accuser herself, and we have not been able to verify her accusations. So there's a lot that's still left to shake out here, and this additional storyline is making an already tense situation even more tense.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben following this story from Richmond, Va. And we will have updates as it unfolds. Thank you so much, Danielle.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you, Ari.
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