Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox revealed on Monday that he has no intention to force Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam out of office through impeachment over a racist photograph that surfaced in his medical school yearbook.
“I think there’s a rightful hesitation about removal from office,” Cox told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Obviously you have to consider that to some degree you’re overturning an election.”
Northam faced massive backlash after a photograph was uncovered on Friday showing an individual dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member aside a man donned in blackface. The photograph appeared on Northam’s yearbook page in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.
Hours after the photograph emerged, Northam confirmed that he was one of the figures and apologized for his behavior. However, during a press conference the following day, the Virginia Democrat flip-flopped and vehemently denied being in the photograph.
Interestingly, Northam acknowledged that he used “a little bit of show polish” to blacken his face while dressing as singer Michael Jackson.
There has been a widespread call for Northam’s resignation across both sides of the aisle. Multiple 2020 presidential contenders, including Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, issued statements that he should step down. Abortion organizations and the Congressional Black Caucus also called for his resignation.
Cox stated that while he believes Northam is no longer able to adequately govern the Commonwealth of Virginia, he is not convinced that the controversy meets the constitutional threshold for a forced ousting through impeachment.
“That’s why we have called for the resignation,” Cox explained. “We hope that’s what the governor does. I think that would obviously be less pain for everyone.”
“This is just heartbreaking,” Cox added.