By JONATHAN DREW, Associated Press
A “concerned citizen” upset by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent comments on abortion legislation tipped off a conservative news site about a racist yearbook photo now threatening the governor’s career, the site’s editor said Monday.
The photo of someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe that appeared on Northam’s page in a 1984 medical school yearbook became public when Big League Politics published it Friday.
The site’s editor-in-chief, Patrick Howley, said in an interview that the tipster was “absolutely not a political operative, absolutely not — just a concerned citizen” but declined to elaborate on their identity. He said he published his story later that day after confirming the photo’s authenticity.
“I can say that the decision to publicize this photo by bringing it to me was based on this person’s anger about what Gov. Northam said about infanticide,” said Howley, a 29-year-old who previously worked for Breitbart News.
Northam recently came under fire from Republicans who have accused him of backing infanticide after he said he supported a bill loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.
Uproar over the picture grew Friday, prompting calls for Northam’s resignation. An Associated Press reporter saw the yearbook page and confirmed its authenticity at the medical school.
Northam first admitted he was in the picture without saying which costume he was wearing and apologized. But a day later, he denied he was in the photo while acknowledging that he once put on blackface to imitate Michael Jackson at a dance contest decades ago. On Monday, he was huddling with advisers to decide his course.
Big League Politics, whose name appears to echo President Donald Trump’s use of the phrase “big league,” has earned a following among far-right readers. Its landing page was dominated by coverage of the Northam story Monday.
Previously, the site reported on rumors about former President Barack Obama that were shown to be false.
Northam himself said over the weekend that he believes whoever contacted the site had “an agenda.”
“I’ve heard kind of second hand from that person why he did this. … There was an agenda involved,” he told reporters.
Drew reported from Raleigh.
Follow Drew at www.twitter.com/JonathanLDrew