Late-night hosts dug into the blackface controversy engulfing Virginia governor Ralph Northam. Stephen Colbert The Late Show tackled the weekend news Monday evening, including Northam’s apology/non-apology tour. To recap: news broke Friday that Northam’s 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School featured a photo of two people, one in blackface, the other in a
Late-night hosts dug into the blackface controversy engulfing Virginia governor Ralph Northam.
The Late Show tackled the weekend news Monday evening, including Northam’s apology/non-apology tour.
To recap: news broke Friday that Northam’s 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School featured a photo of two people, one in blackface, the other in a KKK hood. “Which brings up an interesting question: which is worse?” said Stephen Colbert.
“Oh, I was definitely the guy in the hood, which is why you can’t see how mad I was at that other guy for wearing blackface!” he mocked.
Northam, a Democrat elected governor in 2017, initially apologized for appearing in the photo, but as calls mounted for him to step down, he switched tacks. In a press conference this weekend, Northam asserted that, after finally getting a chance to examine the photo, he was sure he wasn’t in it.
“I am very sorry for what I did,” Colbert translated. “Oh you still want me to resign? I mean, I did not do it.”
As for finally having a chance to examine the photo, Colbert wasn’t buying it. “I’m guessing that wearing blackface is one of those things that you would remember doing, like skydiving, or your first time,” he said.
Furthermore, Northam claimed that he was sure he didn’t wear blackface in the yearbook photo, because he clearly remembered a different time he painted his face: for a Michael Jackson dance competition. “I will grant you: the moonwalk is not an easy dance,” Colbert said after a lengthy reflection off-camera. “But you might want to learn to moonwalk away right now.”
Seth Meyers also pondered the Northam public relations debacle, declaring the initial yearbook photo a clear “lose-lose”.
“I’m no professor in political science, but it’s not good when you have to specify whether you’re the one in blackface or the one in the KKK robe,” he said.
And yet, “somehow the story got worse as the weekend went on”, he added, pointing to Northam’s reversal on his initial apology after taking time to consider the photo.
“Most normal people, if you ask them: ‘Did you ever wear blackface or a KKK robe?’ would go: ‘Absolutely not, that’s insane,’” Meyers said. “But your reaction was: ‘Well, what was the prom theme?’”
Even worse, Meyers added, Northam’s defense hinged on clearly remembering a different instance of blackface. “He’s actually arguing that it couldn’t have been him in blackface because there was a different time he wore blackface. That’s not a defense – that’s a confession,” Meyers said.
As for the Michael Jackson dance competition that prompted the remembered instance of blackface – “I can’t believe anyone has to say this but you can’t moonwalk your way out of this one,” Meyers panned.
On The Daily Show, Trevor Noah began by sympathizing with Northam’s initial contrition when the photo first resurfaced. “I don’t blame him, because neither option is good,” Noah said. “It’s like you’re taking a trip, and your only options are Titanic and Spirit Airlines.”
The first apology tour round was good, Noah said, but what really made Northam “a legend” was his Michael Jackson costume argument. “His new defense is that he knows he didn’t do this blackface, because he clearly remembers doing a different blackface,” Noah summarized.
“Credit to Governor Northam for coming out clean about a time that he did blackface for a Michael Jackson impression,” he continued. “Although, again, uncredit once he started sharing the details,” including that he only used “a little” shoe polish on his face because it’s so difficult to remove.
“Woah … How did he already know it’s hard to get the shoe polish off his face?” Noah wondered. “Because at first, it sounded like he made a mistake. Now, it sounds like he’s a blackface connoisseur.”
Finally, Noah offered some sound advice to moonwalk enthusiasts. “Just a little tip for anyone planning on doing a Michael Jackson impression: if you’re wearing the sparkly shoes and the gloves and you’re doing the moonwalk, that’s good enough. We get who you are.”