"I'm not going anywhere": Northam vows to remain in office despite calls to resign

Northam vows to stay in office: "I'm not going anywhere"

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam says he considered resigning in the wake of the ongoing controversy embroiling his office, but told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King he's "not going anywhere."

"You know, I don't live in a vacuum. And so yes, I have heard it," Northam said, referring to calls for his resignation. "I have thought about resigning, but I've also thought about what Virginia needs right now. And I really think that I'm in a position where I can take Virginia to the next level."

"Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that's why I'm not going anywhere," Northam added.

Northam has resisted calls to step down after a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page surfaced earlier this month. He admitted to darkening his face on a single occasion in 1984.

The governor said in an interview with The Washington Post published Saturday that he would spend the remainder of his term working toward advancing racial equality. The governor has been speaking with black political and community leaders over the past week, but the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus has called for Northam's resignation more than once.

In his interview with King on Sunday, Northam said he would not be stepping down any time soon.

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"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King interviews Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va., on Sun. Feb. 10, 2019. Chris Usher/CBS News

"I'm a leader. I've been in some very difficult situations. Life and death situations, taking care of sick children. And right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. There's no better person to do that than a doctor," said Northam.

The governor said Virginia has a "unique opportunity" to "make some impactful changes" in the face of scandal. The commonwealth is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year.

Two other top Virginia officials have also been embroiled in controversy. Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted to wearing blackface once in his youth. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault by two women. Fairfax has denied both allegations and has called for a full and independent investigation.

Top Democrats in the state, including Sen. Tim Kaine and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, called on Fairfax to resign on Friday after the second woman came forward. Northam told King that if the accusations against Fairfax are true, "I don't think he's going to have any other option but to resign."

"I can only imagine that it must take tremendous courage for women to step forward and and talk about these things that are just- are just so hurtful. And these accusations are very, very serious. They need to be taken seriously. As you know, Governor Fairfax has called for an investigation. I really think where we are now, we need to get to the truth," Northam said Sunday.


The following is a transcript of the portion of the interview that aired on Sunday's "Face the Nation."

Part I

GAYLE KING: I know this has been a very difficult week for you in the state of Virginia. So where would you like to begin?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Well it has been a difficult week. And you know if you look at Virginia's history we are now at the 400 year anniversary, just 90 miles from here in 1619. The first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort what we call now Fort Monroe and while—

GAYLE KING: Also known as slavery.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Yes. And while we have made a lot of progress in Virginia, slavery has ended. Schools have been desegregated. We have ended the Jim Crow laws, easier access to voting. It is abundantly clear that we still have a lot of work to do and I really think this week raised a level of awareness in the Commonwealth and in this country that we haven't seen certainly in my lifetime. So—

GAYLE KING: And why you think you still deserve this job and so many people are calling for you to step down?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Well again we- we have worked very hard. We've had a good first year. And and I'm a leader. I've been in some very difficult situations. Life and death situations taking care of sick children. And right now—

GAYLE KING: Because you're a doctor, yes?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: --right now,  Virginia needs someone that can heal. There's no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that's why I'm not going anywhere. I have learned from this. I have a lot more to learn. But we're in a unique opportunity now. Again the 400 year anniversary of the history whether it be good or bad in Virginia to really make some impactful changes—

GAYLE KING: Of slavery in this country?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Yes.

GAYLE KING: In this state, yeah.

//GAYLE KING: Did you ever think about resigning when the drumbeat became so loud and by the way, there was still beating for you to step down?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Well I—

GAYLE KING: Did you ever think about it?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: You know I don't, I don't live in a vacuum.

GAYLE KING: Yes.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: And so yes, I have heard it and I've had this has been a difficult week. And again I'm-I'm fine. It's been mainly difficult for Virginia in this country. So yes I have thought about resigning but- but I've also thought about what Virginia needs right now. And I really think that I'm in a position where-where I can take Virginia to the next level and it- it will be very positive and you know we have a number of inequities in this country right now and in Virginia and and we're in a position to really stop talking so much and now to take action with policy to address a lot of these inequities.

Part II

GAYLE KING: Let's talk about Justin Fairfax.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Yes.

GAYLE KING: You know- in the beginning he did not call for your resignation. He said, you know, "Let the Governor decide. I know the Governor will make the right decision." But now his story has also changed.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Yes.

GAYLE KING: As you know two women have come out and accused him of sexual assault—

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Yes

GAYLE KING: —sexual inappropriateness, and they both said that if there is an impeachment hearing that they will testify against him. Where do you sit on how you feel about Justin Fairfax today? Are you too, calling for him to step down?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: I can only imagine that it must take tremendous courage for women to step forward and and talk about these things that are just so hurtful. And these accusations are very, very serious. They need to be taken seriously. As you know, Governor Fairfax has called for an investigation. I really think where we are now, we need to get to the truth. The truth- the truth is important and certainly is—

GAYLE KING: He- he too is calling for an investigation.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Yes. He is and I support that. And if these accusations are determined to be true, I don't think he's going to have any other option but to resign.

GAYLE KING: At this time, do you think he should resign?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: That's going to be a decision that he needs to make.

GAYLE KING: And now your Attorney General is also- also has some explaining to do about his use of blackface. He said it was because it was Halloween and he was dressed up as his favorite- one of his favorite rappers Kurtis Blow. Calls for him to resign as well. Your thoughts about that?

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM: Well I know Attorney General Herring well, as I do Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, and you know we have all grown. I don't know what the attorney general was thinking, what his perception was of race, of- of the use of blackface back then. But I can tell you that I am sure, just like me, he has grown. He has served Virginia well and he and I and Justin, all three of us have fought for equality. And so again I regret that our Attorney General is in this position but this is a decision that he's going to need to make.

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital