Norment says ‘blackface is abhorrent’ after report that he oversaw VMI yearbook, which included racist photos, slurs

State Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, issued a testy statement Thursday after The Virginian-Pilot reported that Norment oversaw production of the 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook, “The Bomb,” which included blackface photos and racial slurs.

“With 114 editions of The Bomb available online dating back to 1885, I am not surprised that those wanting to engulf Republican leaders in the current situations involving the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general would highlight the yearbook from my graduation a half century ago,” he said.

Norment said he was one of seven editors working on the yearbook and that he was not in any of the racist photos, nor did he take any of them.

“The use of blackface is abhorrent in our society and I emphatically condemn it,” Norment said. “As one of seven working on a 359-page yearbook, I cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page.”

Norment said supported the integration of VMI and, in 1997, “led the effort to have my alma mater include women for the first time.”

Following the revelation of a racist image on Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page last week, House Republicans called on the governor to resign.

“While we respect the governor’s lifetime of service, his ability to lead and govern is permanently impaired and the interests of the commonwealth necessitate his resignation,” House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, and other GOP leaders said in a statement.

Since then, Attorney General Mark Herring has admitted wearing blackface and a sexual assault allegation against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has surfaced, casting a cloud of uncertainty over the state’s top-three elected officials, all Democrats.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was asked if Virginia’s political turmoil might hurt Democrats nationwide.

“No, it does not,” she said. “The Virginians will resolve their issues that they have there. It’s sad because they have some very talented leaders there. But they have to have the confidence of the legislature that they have to work with. But I’ll leave that up to them. I have enough to do here without getting involved in the affairs of Virginia.”

Robin Bravender, Newsroom Washington bureau chief, contributed.