Gov. Ralph Northam

When Blackface Photos Cause Political Storms

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia is the latest and most prominent political figure to be engulfed in controversy over the wearing of blackface or other racially offensive imagery, but hardly the only one..

Faced with widespread calls for his resignation, Mr. Northam has tried to extricate himself from a firestorm over a photo on his page in a 1984 medical school yearbook. Though he had initially acknowledged responsibility and apologized, he denied on Saturday that he was either of the people in the photo — one in Ku Klux Klan robes, the other in blackface.

Other politicians caught up in scandals over racially offensive photos in recent years have usually resigned or been rejected by voters. Here are some examples from around the country.

Michael Ertel — Florida, 2019

Mr. Ertel, the Republican secretary of state, resigned in January after photos were published of him from 2005, wearing blackface and a T-shirt reading “Katrina Victim.” He had been in office less than three weeks.

Brant Tomlinson — South Carolina, 2018

A Republican candidate for a council seat in Kershaw County, Mr. Tomlinson stayed in the race after photos emerged of him in blackface in 2008, when he was a college student. He was dressed as a member of a Jamaican bobsled team. Mr. Tomlinson made it to a runoff in his party’s primary before being defeated.

Hal Patton — Illinois, 2018

The mayor of Edwardsville, Ill., was a third-party candidate running for a State Senate seat when a decade-old photo surfaced showing him dressed as a “rapper” in blackface. Mr. Patton apologized for the costume, calling it a “bad choice,” and stayed in the race, but was defeated in the general election.

Robbie Gatti Jr. — Louisiana, 2017

A Republican running for a vacant State House seat in a special election, Mr. Gatti made no apologies when a 2002 photo emerged of him in blackface at a church festival, dressed as the golfer Tiger Woods. He attributed the controversy to “desperate attacks” by his opponents. Mr. Gatti made it into a runoff with another Republican but was ultimately defeated..

Dov Hikind — New York, 2013

Mr. Hikind, a longtime Democratic state assemblyman from Brooklyn, held a party for the Jewish holiday of Purim at which he wore an Afro wig and brown makeup and was dressed as a basketball player. News reports and a photo of him in costume attracted wide criticism, but he defended his costume and said many people did not understand the tradition of dressing up for Purim. He retained his seat through two more elections, and retired in December.

Latest Stories