WASHINGTON — Ralph Northam’s approval rating has collapsed in the wake of the racist photo scandal surrounding Virginia’s Democratic governor.
According to a Morning Consult poll, support for Northam dropped from 48 percent in the month before the scandal broke to 29 percent immediately after.
Those who disapprove of Northam’s performance as governor also rose from 26 percent to 48 percent.
On Friday, it was revealed by the conservative blog Big League Politics that Northam’s medical school yearbook from 1984 depicted a shockingly racist photo on the future governor’s page.
As the story gained steam, Northam initially apologized for the photo, which depicted two men standing together — one in blackface and another dressed as a Klansman.
“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” Northam said Friday in a statement. “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”
The next day, however, Northam backed away from his statement and claimed that he wasn’t either of the men in the photo.
To back up his claim, Northam told reporters that he had no recollection of wearing the outfits in the photo, adding that he would remember since he clearly recalled wearing shoe polish on his face that year while impersonating Michael Jackson.
The acknowledgment only fueled public outcry against the governor.
Northam has remained adamant that he won’t resign, but Democratic leaders at the state and national level have urged him to step down.
“Virginians and people across the country deserve better for their leaders,” Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “It is clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern.”
If Northam eventually surrenders his position, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax is in line to assume the job. Fairfax would become Virginia’s second black governor. L. Douglas Wilding was the first, serving from 1990-1994.
On Monday, Big League Politics shared a social media screenshot from a woman who claimed that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.
Fairfax issued a denial that morning, emphasizing that the Washington Post and other outlets have been informed of the allegations and were unable to independently corroborate them.
The Morning Consult’s post-controversy poll was conducted Saturday and Sunday among 291 Virginia voters. There is a six- point margin of error.
The data from before the scandal was gathered Jan. 1-31 among 4,326 respondents. There was a +/- one-point margin of error.