The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘A rush to judgment’: Joe Lieberman says he sees no reason for Northam to resign

Demands for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to resign intensified on Feb. 3, after a racist 1984 yearbook photo was released. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

Former senator Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee in 2000, offered a rare voice of support Monday for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) staying in office amid the controversy over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook.

Lieberman, who became an independent late in his Senate career, was asked during an appearance on CNN whether he thinks Northam should resign.

“I don’t today,” Lieberman said. “I think there’s a rush to judgment that is unfair to him. One, he says he wasn’t in that picture. Two, I think we ought to fairly ask him, ‘Did he know the picture was on his page of that yearbook?’ And then three, really, he ought to be judged on the context of his whole life.”

Northam meets with senior staff and considers options, including resignation

“I think he deserves a chance to prove what really is his essence, not to rush him out of office, unfortunately for political reasons,” Lieberman said.

Northam apologized Friday for the 1984 photo but then said Saturday that neither of the two figures in the racist photo is him. One appears in blackface, while the other is dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb.

Northam’s handling of the episode has prompted widespread calls for his resignation from national Democrats, including many of those angling to run for president in 2020.

Lieberman, who was on the 2000 presidential ticket with Democrat Al Gore, has shown a willingness to chart his own course in other instances.

In 2008, he delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention endorsing John McCain, the GOP nominee for president, over Democrat Barack Obama.