Fairfax: 'Inconclusive' yearbook photo investigation underscores need for due process

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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT/Gray News) — Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said the "inconclusive" result of the investigation into Gov. Ralph Northam's yearbook page underscores the importance of not rushing to judgement.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said the “inconclusive” result of the investigation into Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page underscores the importance of not rushing to judgement. (Source: WWBT)

Investigators with the McGuireWoods law firm, hired by Eastern Virginia Medical School, announced Wednesday they could not determine who the people are in blackface and a KKK robe in a photo on Northam's 1984 yearbook page.

Northam first admitted to being in the photo, then recanted saying he is not, although he admitted to wearing blackface at another point during his medical school days in a bizarre press conference in which he appeared to consider obliging a reporter's question if he can still moonwalk.

He has since rejected calls to resign for months, now appearing regularly in public again.

Not rushing to judgement is a topic Fairfax has talked about since two women accused him of sexual assault in 2000 and 2004, as he maintains his innocence.

In his statement, Fairfax said, "I hope that this report reminds us of the importance of considered judgment, due process, and fundamental fairness."

Fairfax said while he does not condone people wearing blackface or KKK outfits, he never called for Northam to resign. He writes that he encourages Northam to continue to work to address racial inequality, as he has since the photo surfaced.

Fairfax's full statement is below:

"Yesterday's investigative report issued on behalf of the Eastern Virginia Medical School provides ample reason for the importance of our elected and party leaders not rushing to judgment based on limited initial evidence.

As a statewide official elected by a sizable majority, Governor Northam was entitled to the benefit of the doubt while all necessary facts and available information were obtained via an appropriate independent investigation. I understand we reside in a fast-paced social media world that demands instantaneous conclusions but the evaluation of long ago events often requires time to evaluate properly. I hope that this report reminds us of the importance of considered judgment, due process, and fundamental fairness. These are pillars of our democracy and our legal system.

The lack of conclusive evidence at the time was why, in my role as an elected official, I chose not to call for his resignation even though I did express serious concern about his actions. I did not and do not condone people using black face or Klan outfits. Public officials who have engaged in either must make serious, substantive, and lasting amends if they are to remain in office.

But I believed that more evidence was necessary before elected officials and party officials could properly pass judgment on decades-old events. I also believed, as an elected official representing the entire Commonwealth, that it was important to consider Governor Northam's actions over the course of his lifetime before I should pass judgment whether he should remain our Governor. Based on what we now know, I believe the stance I took was and is appropriate to the circumstances.

During this course of this process, Governor Northam has committed himself to working to address issues related to racial inequality. I strongly encourage him to continue with those efforts. It is vitally important that we focus on serving the needs of Virginians and improving lives of the residents our Commonwealth."

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