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Former Rep. Moran has Northam’s back, even as Democrats ditch him

Former Virginia Democrat has said Northam should be given opportunity for ‘redemption’

Former Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., pictured here in his last term in 2013 in the Rayburn House Office Building, has gone to bat for Gov. Ralph Northam after images appeared allegedly showing Northam in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan outfit when he was in medical school. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Virginia Rep. Jim Moran is sticking by commonwealth Gov. Ralph Northam after a photo in Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced showing a man wearing blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

Northam has cast doubt that he appears in the photo, even though it’s on his individual page in the yearbook.

Moran pointed out that people who held racist views or frequently used racist epithets — including former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson — later in life became some of the most effective political leaders pushing black rights forward.

“Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson probably did the most in terms of addressing America’s original sin of slavery,” Moran, who represented Virginia’s 8th District for 24 years until 2015, told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.Also watch: SOTU: A brief history

“Abraham Lincoln said he thought African-Americans were inferior, if you can believe it, but it’s true. Lyndon Johnson used the n-word regularly in front of African-Americans. And yet they were able to accomplish things that mattered, that are sustainable,” Moran said, referring to Lincoln’s abolition of slavery and Johnson’s signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Moran’s TV interview defending Northam Monday was his second in as many days. The former congressman has said that while the picture in the congressman’s yearbook is reprehensible, people should have the opportunity for “redemption.”

“The path to progress is long and winding and can get very twisty,” Moran said. “I’m a Democrat largely because I believe in racial justice. I want us to be pragmatic about this. 

At a Saturday press conference, Northam refused to step down.

Democratic members of Virginia’s congressional delegation intensified their calls for the governor to resign after he announced that he wouldn’t step aside.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and dean of the House delegation, Rep. Robert C. Scott, issued a joint statement Saturday night explicitly calling for the governor to step aside. They had been more subtle in their initial statements Friday night.

“Governor Northam has served the people of the Commonwealth faithfully for many years, but the events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.”

Democratic Reps. Donald S. Beyer Jr. and Gerald E. Connolly issued a similar joint statement Saturday in response to Northam’s press conference.

Freshman Reps. Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton each fired off their own statements advising Northam to resign.

The Democratic Governors Association, the Virginia Democratic Party, the state House and Senate caucuses, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and Attorney General Mark Herring had all joined in that call by Saturday afternoon.

Moran, however, remained firmly behind Northam’s crusade to finish out the remaining three years of his term. Virginia governors cannot run for re-election. 

Moran suggested in his interview Monday that reporting on public figures’ past behavior and publicly lambasting them years later does not accomplish much except to “serve our righteous indignation.”

He indicated that Democrats should focus their attention beyond the anger they feel in the near-term over Northam’s yearbook page, and they should think about whether he can achieve good results for them as governor.

“We have to look at the long term, and this business of public shaming where we accomplish really very little except to serve our righteous indignation,” Moran said.

“Then we go right back to our own respective corners, our ideological comfort zone. All it does is to exacerbate the tribalism that’s tearing our society apart,” Moran said. 

“I want bridge builders and uniters and healers. There’s the potential for Mr. Northam to be a very fine governor, and that’s what matters in the long run,” Moran said.

Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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