U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper -- two Colorado Democrats pondering bids for the White House -- have called on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to step down in the wake of controversy over a racist yearbook photo.
The Virginia Democrat was clinging to office Monday morning amid nearly unanimous calls from his own party to resign over a photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, after a bizarre weekend in which he first admitted he was in the picture, and then denied it.
The yearbook photo shows someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
The Democrat's stunning about-face — at a weekend news conference where he also acknowledged putting on blackface to imitate Michael Jackson at a dance contest decades ago — only seemed to make things worse.
A Northam official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the governor met Sunday evening with minority officials in his administration. It wasn't immediately known what was discussed and the official spoke on condition of anonymity.
"This photo may not be the sum of who Ralph Northam is," Hickenlooper tweeted Friday night after the story broke, "but there's no doubt, that the right thing for him to do as a leader is step down."
This photo may not be the sum of who Ralph Northam is, but there’s no doubt, that the right thing for him to do as a leader is to step down.— John Hickenlooper (@hickforco) February 2, 2019
Bennet followed with a tweet Saturday.
"The photo is racist and despicable," Bennet wrote. "Governor Northam should step down and allow his Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, to become the next Governor of Virginia."
The photo is racist and despicable. Governor Northam should step down and allow his Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, to become the next Governor of Virginia.— Michael Bennet (@SenatorBennet) February 2, 2019
Northam has lost the support of virtually all of the state's Democratic establishment. Top Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly also urged Northam to step down, as did many declared and potential Democratic presidential candidates.
Virginia governors can be removed for "malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor" under the state constitution, but top Democrats said they don't believe it will come to that.