‘We Were Wrong’: The Washington Post Editorial Board Shifts Gears After Once Calling For Ralph Northam’s Resignation

Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Font Size:

The Washington Post’s editorial board has done an about-face after once calling for the resignation of Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Earlier this year, when a medical school yearbook photo of what appeared to be Northam either in blackface or a Ku Klux Klan outfit emerged, the Post was one of many outlets calling for the Virginia governor to resign.

Northam “can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia who elected him,” the outlet’s editorial board wrote in February. “His shifting and credulity-shredding explanations for the racist photograph on his medical school yearbook page, and the silence into which he then succumbed for days — after initially promising to do ‘the hard work’ of atonement and apology to restore his standing with Virginians — is simply too much.”

In the months since, however, the embattled Virginia governor has indeed managed to accomplish “‘the hard work’ of atonement and apology,” at least to the satisfaction of the Post.

“Back when a racist photo first surfaced in his medical school yearbook, most Va lawmakers, our editorial page (and yours truly) said ⁦@GovernorVA⁩ should resign,” tweeted WaPo political columnist Karen Tumulty. “We were wrong.”

The Friday piece, titled “How Ralph Northam came back from the political dead,” marvels at how “few back-from-the-dead narratives have been as swift and sure-footed as the one Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has managed this year.”

The Post cites Northam’s “astonishingly effective” focus on “racial equity and reconciliation” as having moved the needle in the direction of redemption, even after Northam denied a prior admission to having been in the photo, then admitted to donning blackface as Michael Jackson during a dance contest. (RELATED: WaPo’s ‘Conservative’ Blogger Under Fire After Calling Black Virginia Lieutenant Governor ‘Eloquent’)

The outlet did mention a few other factors that led to Northam’s durability, including the fact that a Republican could have become governor if the top three Democratic leaders succumbed to the scandals they were currently embroiled in:

It helped Mr. Northam that his potential Democratic successors were quickly enmeshed in their own scandals, which shifted the spotlight and forced his party to consider whether it would prefer a Republican governor. (It wouldn’t.)

“Most potent, it helped that he set himself an agenda on racial equity and pursued it single-mindedly,” the board wrote before listing several examples, including visiting racially significant sites, seeking counsel from black leaders, and establishing a commission to “comb state law for racist language and provisions.”