After his initial, unequivocal statement of admission and contrition, Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has strained credulity with his subsequent, turn-on-a-dime insistence that he was neither of two figures depicted in the racist photograph that appeared on his medical-school yearbook page in 1984. Since that head-spinning reversal over the course of less than 24 hours at the beginning of February, very little has emerged to shed light on that photograph, of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe, or on the mystery of its genesis and how it landed on Northam’s page if he did not put it there.
Now, with the publication of what was meant to be the definitive report on the incident, the conclusion, or rather nonconclusion, is a big fat shrug. After four months of investigations by a prominent lawyer at Richmond’s most notable law firm, the verdict in the matter of Northam’s youthful yearbook is in. It is no verdict at all.
The 55-page report, conducted by the firm McGuireWoods and overseen by former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen, a partner at the firm, at the request of Northam’s alma mater, Eastern Virginia Medical School, is the product of dozens of interviews.
In the end, the investigators were unable to determine the genesis of the photo or identify its subjects.
Couldn’t prove that he did it; couldn’t prove that he didn’t - that’s the report’s manifestly murky bottom line.
Meanwhile, Northam, a Democrat who before the blackface scandal was regarded as progressive on race and civil rights, continues limping along as chief executive in Virginia, where governors cannot run for a consecutive second term. Politically and morally wounded, he has sought redemption by dedicating his governorship to racial reconciliation, even as he is publicly spurned and disinvited from events. The question of whether his public purgatory is just remains no clearer than the origin of the notorious photo.
-The Washington Post