Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has apologized after his 1984 student yearbook page emerged, showing a picture featuring men in racist costumes.
The Democrat governor said in a statement: “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”
Black politicians in Virginia called the image “disgusting” and Republicans urged Ralph Northam to resign.
The picture showed a man in blackface and another man in Ku Klux Klan robes.
The image appeared on a page with other photos of Ralph Northam, who was aged about 25 at the time, as well as personal details about him.
Ralph Northam did not elaborate on which costume he was wearing, but said he appeared in a photograph that was “clearly racist and offensive”.
His yearbook page, which came from the pediatric neurologist’s time at Eastern Virginia Medical School, was first published by conservative website Big League Politics.
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper tweeted a picture of the page which it said it obtained from the medical school library.
An official from the medical school verified the photo and told the Huffington Post it came from a “student-produced publication”.
The yearbook page, which features Ralph Northam’s full name and photos of the future doctor and politician, also included a quote from a Willie Nelson song that read: “There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I’ll have another beer.”
In his statement, issued after the image was made public, the governor said: “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service.”
He added: “But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.
“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work.
“The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their governor.”
Ralph Northam later released a video statement via Twitter in which he said he was “deeply sorry” for the offence the image had caused.
He said: “I accept responsibility for my past actions and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.”
Before he was elected governor, Ralph Northam served for a decade as a Virginia state legislator.
Ralph Northam’s responsibilities as governor include implementing state laws, restoring voting rights for individuals who have had them withdrawn and issuing pardons.