In a truly bizarre and wide reaching press conference, Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam reversed his admission that he was one of the two students in the racist photograph, and went on to ramble about how difficult it is to remove shoe polish from one’s face and possibly the 2001 movie, Black Hawk Down.
Northam first claimed that he was not present in the photo on his yearbook page, which showed one student in blackface standing next to another in Ku Klux Klan garb. He then admitted that he did once “darken” his face with black shoe polish to look like Michael Jackson for a dancing contest, and later suggested the media contact his medical school roommate for further clarification. Also, that roommate was apparently the medic from Black Hawk Down. He did not clarify if he meant his roommate was the basis of the character or actually in the movie.
When discussing his use of shoe polish to imitate Michael Jackson, Northam remarked that he “used just a little bit of shoe polish,” on his face, saying he only used a small amount “because I don’t know if anyone’s tried, but you cannot get shoe polish off.”
He said repeatedly that he had no recollection of the photo, and only admitted it was him because of the shock. Then he cited his college roommate as an authority.
“And just finally, to be able to talk to my room mate, we’re very close. I think some of you have already reached out to him,” he continued, “He was the medic in Black Hawk Down.”
Northam also admitted his medical school nickname was “Coonman,” but claimed he had no idea what the students who called him by the seemingly racist name intended by its use.
He also admitted that wearing shoe polish on his face to look like Jackson was offensive, and pledged to “continue having discussions.”
Ironically, the emotionally gripping scene from Black Hawk Down serves as an excellent metaphor for this train wreck of a press conference.
“Keep direct pressure on the wound!”
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