Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized Saturday for a racist photo appearing on his page of a medical school yearbook, but said after further contemplation that he was not in the photograph.
His revised comments came as politicians and black activists nationwide called on him to resign.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would replace Northam as governor if he leaves office, said in a statement the image had "shocked and saddened" him did not explicitly call for him to resign. "They are an example of a painful scourge that continues to haunt us today and holds us back from the progress we need to take," said Fairfax, who is African American.
The 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook shows one person in blackface and one person in a Ku Klux Klan outfit together in a photograph next to the governor's name. Northam, a pediatrician who graduated from the school that year, apologized Friday for appearing in the photo, but backtracked that statement in a news conference a day later, saying he was not in the photograph.
Northam also said he has no intention of resigning from office, despite a groundswell of calls to do otherwise from prominent Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
Northam said Saturday he once used shoe polish to darken his face to look like pop star Michael Jackson in a San Antonio dance contest in the mid-1980s, but after thinking about the yearbook photo and discussing it with other people, Northam said he wasn't the individual in the KKK robe or the individual in blackface. He suggested photos also mistakenly appeared on other peoples' pages of the yearbook.
"That is not my picture," he told reporters Saturday. "That is not my person on the pictures."
Northam acknowledged the controversy swirling around the photo, which first surfaced Friday on the conservative news website Big League Politics, as well as the calls for his resignation.
"Yesterday, I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page in the medical school yearbook that was clearly racist and offensive," Northam said. "I cannot and will not excuse the content of the photos. It was racist and despicable."
Northam added that when his staff showed him the yearbook, he was "seeing it for the first time."
When pressed about the pressure for him to resign, he said that would be the easy way out and a way for him to dodge responsibility.
"Today, I am not ready to ask Virginians forgiveness for my past actions," Northam said. "I'm simply asking for an opportunity to demonstrate that the person I was is not the person I am today. I'm asking on the opportunity to earn your forgiveness."
Both of Virginia's U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, said they have called Northam to tell him he must resign because he no longer can effectively serve as governor, The Washington Post reported.
Numerous other politicians from both parties have said he must go, including Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez and several Democratic Party presidential candidates.
President Donald Trump weighed in from Mar-a-Lago in Florida, on Twitter: "Democrat Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia just stated, 'I believe that I am not either of the people in that photo.' This was 24 hours after apologizing for appearing in the picture and after making the most horrible statement on 'super' late term abortion. Unforgivable!"
And then he tweeted: "Ed Gillespie, who ran for Governor of the Great State of Virginia against Ralph Northam, must now be thinking Malpractice and Dereliction of Duty with regard to his Opposition Research Staff. If they find that terrible picture before the election, he wins by 20 points!"