Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a political survivor who weathered calls for his resignation two years ago, is one of the few Democrats who is not weighing in on whether embattled fellow Governor Andrew Cuomo should step down, after investigators appointed by the New York Attorney General Letitia James concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed multiple women.
“What’s happening in New York is very, very unfortunate,” Northam told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett on “The Takeout” this week. “I will let the people of New York decide his fate. I think that’s the most appropriate thing. I’ve certainly got enough on my plate in Virginia not to get into New York politics.”
President Biden, members of Congress and governors of neighboring states have called on Cuomo to resign in the wake of James’ report. Four New York district attorneys have also opened investigations into Cuomo.
In 2019, Northam also faced calls for his resignation after a photo surfaced from Northam’s college yearbook page showing one person dressed in blackface and another person wearing a KKK outfit. He told Garrett, “I regret that that [racist incident] happened. It was hard on Virginia, but I was committed to listening. I’m thankful that Virginians have stuck with me.” Northam also said that after the incident, he went back and learned about his family’s slave-owning history on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
The Virginia governor also discussed measures to arrest the coronavirus pandemic. He announced Thursday that he would require all Virginia state employees to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing. He told Garrett he’s also looking into incentivizing vaccinations for Virginians to combat rising COVID-19 cases in his state.
“The key here is that people need to get vaccinated,” said Northam, who is also a neurologist. “That’s the way we’re going to put this [virus] in the rearview mirror.”
The Delta variant of the coronavirus has been causing a spike COVID-19 cases among the unvaccinated, prompting a number of states and localities to reinstate mask mandates indoors; other states have begun to require proof of vaccination for indoor activities like dining and going to gyms and entertainment venues.
The Virginia governor also discussed the upcoming race to succeed him, pitting former Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, against Republican Glenn Youngkin. He predicted that McAuliffe would win by “four or five” percent of the vote. Virginia law precludes a second consecutive term for Northam.
The debate around critical race theory, a concept originated by legal scholars to examine the ongoing effects of racism in U.S. policies and institutions, has also intensified in Virginia as the state’s gubernatorial election approaches. But Northam downplayed it as a “dog whistle” being used by Republicans in Virginia to mobilize conservative voters in November.
“I can promise you, if you ask the majority of [Republicans] what critical race theory is, I think there’d be a silence,” Northam said. He added that it was a “tactic to scare people” and that critical race theory is not a part of the state’s K-12 education curriculum.
- Should Andrew Cuomo resign? “What’s happening in New York is very, very unfortunate. The accusations and what this investigation brought out from these individuals is very troubling. You know, I will let the people of New York decide his fate. I think that’s the most appropriate thing. I’ve certainly got enough on my plate in Virginia not to get into New York politics.
- COVID-19: “The key here is that people need to get vaccinated. That’s the way we’re going to put this [virus] in the rearview mirror.”
- Teaching critical race theory in Virginia: “It is a dog whistle… I can promise you, if you ask the majority of [Republicans] what Critical Race Theory is, I think there’d be a silence… it’s a tactic to scare people, but it’s not going to work. Virginians are smart and they know that we’re a diverse commonwealth that we embrace inclusively, and that’s the way we’ll move forward. We don’t teach critical race theory. It’s not part of our curriculum- has nothing to do with K through 12 curriculum.”
- Terry McAuliffe v. Glenn Youngkin: “I do…It will always be close in Virginia. I’ll say [McAuliffe will win by] four or five [percent] at least. I won by nine points three and a half years ago. So Virginia has become bluer each year and again its because of the good things that we’ve been able to do.”
- Racist photo on Northam’s yearbook page surfaced: “I’m certainly not proud of that… I regret that having been the case, but it was. And so I have in a lot of things I’ve done… I’ve tried to learn about our history. I’ve listened. I went on listening tours around Virginia and really thought about what I can do as governor… I regret that that [racist incident] happened. It was hard on Virginia, but I was committed to listening. I’m thankful that Virginians have stuck with me. And because of that- we had always focused on inequities- but obviously they were put into stronger focus, if you will, by that incident. And I think we’ve really been able to make some good improvements and make Virginia a more inclusive and more welcoming state.”
For more of Major’s conversation with Northam, download “The Takeout” podcast on Art19, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch “The Takeout” on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of “The Takeout” episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to “The Takeout” on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).
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