Former Va. Rep. Jim Moran Says Northam Shouldn’t Resign: ‘I Think We Ought to Give Him an Opportunity to Redeem Himself'

By Melanie Arter | February 4, 2019 | 12:16pm EST
Former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.)

( – Former Virginia Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat, is going against many in his party who are calling for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to resign after initially admitting to appearing in a racist medical school yearbook photo that featured someone in blackface and another in a KKK costume.

In an interview with ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolous,” Moran was asked about a statement he made in support of Northam keeping his position, saying that no one will “work harder to redeem himself for this grievous error in judgment.”

“Do you still think it’s tenable?” Stephanopolous asked.

“I don't know whether it's tenable. I do think it's the right thing to do, and I hate to be on the other side of virtually all of my friends on this, but I do disagree with their judgment because I think it is a rush to judgment before we know all of the facts and before we’ve considered all of the consequences,” Moran said.

“Facts that we do know are that Ralph has expanded Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians, a disproportionate number of whom are African-Americans. He has promoted the career of his very talented lieutenant governor in every possible way. He’s invested in better preschools and public schools in minority neighborhoods,” he added.

“So we know what he has done as governor, but even if the worst case scenario is true, George, I think there is an issue of redemption. Redemption is a very powerful factor in what people are able to accomplish. You know, Ralph understands the endemic racism that has been part of Virginia's society for so long,” Moran said.

“It was 400 years ago to this year when the first African-Americans were brought as slaves to Point Comfort, now Fort Monroe, and he understands that legacy better than many people are able to and I think we ought to give him an opportunity to redeem himself,” he added.

“You know, look at Lyndon Johnson. No untarnished liberal from the north could ever have gotten the great society programs passed, but he was able to work with his southern colleagues because he knew where they were coming from. We still have a conservative Republican legislature and frankly, I think that Ralph will have the highest motivation possible to bring us further away from this horrible past of racism and bring us toward more racial justice, reconciliation, and reparation,” Moran said.


One day after admitting he appeared in the yearbook photo without specifying whether he was the man in blackface or the one in the KKK costume, Northam called a press conference Saturday to say he had misspoken and was not in the photo at all. Furthermore, he said, he had appeared in blackface while dressed as Michael Jackson that same year.

When asked whether Northam’s case would have been stronger if he had aired those issues himself, Moran said, “Yes,” and that Northam’s still learning.

“Yes, you know, I think he’s still learning, and I really don’t think that we should be judging the basis of the mistakes people have committed in the past as much as whether they have learned from that past to bring this forward,” Moran said.

“And I think Ralph may be just the kind of person who can build those bridges to a better future. He has the highest motivation imaginable to ensure that his legacy is not defined by a picture in his yearbook, but rather by what he has accomplished as – as governor,” Moran continued.

Moran also pointed for former KKK officer the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as an example of redemption.

“I believe in second chances, you know, I’ll never forget Robert C. Byrd, who had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan early in his political career, coming to me at an interior appropriations conference and saying, ‘Congressman, there – after 50 years in the Senate, there is nothing more important to me than setting aside land on the National Mall for a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King. I don’t care about getting any credit, but this is what is my highest priority at the end of my career,’” he said.

“That’s the power of redemption,” Moran said, “and I think we should use it to achieve a better future for all of Virginia citizens.”

Patrick Gaspard, president of Open Society Foundations, an international grantmaking network founded by liberal billionaire financier George Soros, said Sunday that Moran was wrong to characterize Virginia Northam appearing in blackface as a mistake.

“Yesterday was a pathetic spectacle by Governor Northam. I respect the congressman. I’ve worked with the congressman and appreciate his point of view, but when he cites historic figures like Robert Byrd who, towards the end of their – his life, needed to make good with his God, we all need to remember that people like Robert Byrd, who served in the Ku Klux Klan then led what was then the longest filibuster in the history of the Senate against the Civil Rights bill,” Gaspard said during a panel discussion on “This Week.”

“Dressing in blackface, standing with somebody in a KKK robe isn’t a mistake. It’s a decision that one makes that projects a set of values and a set of violent values into the world. I hope the governor will do the right thing soon,” Gaspard said.

Gaspard said Virginia has a “duality” - a “state that was the founding state in the democracy but also a state that, 400 years ago, introduced slavery; a state that elected the first African-American governor, but also a state that gave us the violent incident at Charlottesville.”

“At a time when we have self-avowed white supremacists like Steven King in our Congress, which the Republican party rightly censured, we have to have a zero tolerance policy on these kinds of issues,” he said.


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