RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/AP) — Officials with Eastern Virginia Medical School on Tuesday held a news conference to discuss an investigation into “unacceptable photos” in the student yearbook.
The investigation comes after a photo on Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 EVMS yearbook page surfaced on Friday, which shows someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
President and dean of EVMS’ School of Medicine Richard Homan announced the formation of a diverse community advisory board that will conduct an external investigation into the school’s past yearbooks.
Homan called the photo on Northam’s yearbook page “shockingly abhorrent” in a statement released on Saturday.
NBC affiliate WAVY found more blackface pictures in EVMS yearbooks.
The 1985 yearbook featured the photo of a man in blackface on Michael Breiner’s page. The caption in the yearbook read: “who ever thought Diana Ross would make it to Medical School!”
WAVY sister station WFXR in Roanoke spoke with Breiner on Monday.
Breiner says he dressed up as Diana Ross at an annual Halloween party. He says he asked his African American friends for permission to wear black makeup at the party.
“I am a big fan of Diana Ross. I love the Supremes. I have a lot of great African American friends. I still do and they gave me their blessing that this would not offend them,” Breiner said. “It was a Halloween party. I meant no disrespect to the African American community.”
Breiner previously worked as a plastic surgeon in the Roanoke area. He is now a professsor at the the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Breiner was a Demoratic Virginia State Senate candidate in 2007.
“Do I regret it now? Yeah, because it’s a different time. This was 35 years ago,” said Breiner. “I didn’t mean to offend anyone. That’s why I sought out the opinion of other medical students that were African American students at the party. If they said it would offend them then I would have never have done this. Would I do this now again? No, because it would offend people.”
Northam, a pediatric neurologist who graduated from EVMS and came to politics late in life, is one year into his four-year term. If Northam resigns, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become the second African-American governor in Virginia history.
A top administration official told the Associated Press Monday night Northam met with staff to hear their assessment of whether it’s viable for him to stay in office.
Northam has rebuffed widespread calls for his resignation since the photo was published online. The governor initially apologized for appearing in the photo, but then said a day later that he was convinced he wasn’t in it.
Calls from lawmakers for Northam’s resignation seemed to ease Monday. State Del. Lamont Bagby, head of the Legislative Black Caucus, said there was little left to say: “I’m going to let him breathe a little bit, give him space to make the right decision.”
The Associated Press contributed to this post.