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Governor Northam Was Called to Resign; Northam Denies Being Seen in Racist Yearbook Photo; U.S. to Withdraw From INF Treaty; CNN Original Film 'Three Identical Strangers.' Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 2, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Big breaking news here on CNN, both U.S. Senators from Virginia are now calling for the state's top Governor, the state's lead to step aside, as Governor Ralph Northam flatly denies being one of the two people seen in a racist photo in his medical school yearbook.
Northam is a Democrat, and officials from his own party at the state and national level say he should quit. The Governor spoke to reporters today admitting some questionable decisions in the past, but putting his foot down and insisting, when it comes to that picture from 1984, it's not him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page, but I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.
I stand by my statement of apology to the many Virginians who were hurt by seeing this content on a yearbook page that belongs to me. It is disgusting. It is offensive. It is racist. And it was my responsibility to recognize and prevent it from being published in the first place.
My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems in part from my clear memory of other mistakes I made in the same period of my life. That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio, in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume. I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: As for whether he intends to resign or stay and bear the pressure, Northam says quitting would be easy and he won't do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. NORTHAM: I cannot, in good conscience, choose the path that would be easier for me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Jessica Dean is in Richmond. Jessica, the Governor of Virginia saying, no, it is not him in that picture, and no, he is not quitting. But as we just reported, the chorus of voices calling for his resignation is growing.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Ana, this latest round is very significant. We have heard now from Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, both of Virginia, and Representative Bobby Scott. Kaine and Warner, of course, both former governors of the commonwealth, all Democrats. Their opinion weighs very heavily.
I want to read you the statement they just put out. It's a joint statement. They said, "After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him we no longer believe he can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia and that he must resign. Governor Northam has served the people of the commonwealth faithfully for many years, but the events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the commonwealth to begin healing." That coming from Warner, Kaine and Scott tonight.
And again, you can't overstate, that's coming after the press conference. In addition to their statement, the state's Attorney General, Mark Herring, putting out a statement calling for Northam to resign. So, at this point, the chorus continues to grow, but you can't understate how impactful this one is. We will see what happens over the next 24 hours.
But very interesting to note that these calls for his resignation, Ana, coming after that press conference, where he went out, he said he was going to answer every question, and kept saying over and over again, this is not me in this photo and I think that I can move forward and earn back the trust of Virginians. The Senators and Congressmen tonight saying, we don't believe that you can do that. It is time for you to step aside.
CABRERA: Jessica Dean, thank you for staying on this story and continuing to report it out, as we get new information.
I'm joined now by White House Correspondent for "The Washington Post," Toluse Olorunnipa and CNN's Senior Political Analyst and former adviser to four U.S. presidents, David Gergen.
David, what do you make of Northam's defense that he's not in this blackface photo, because he says he can actually remember the time he did put on shoe polish and darken his face and this wasn't it?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: Well, he didn't restore his credibility in the press conference and now Senators Kaine and Warner along with Bobby Scott, they've put the final nails in the coffin. There's no way he can survive this now.
And in my judgment, Ana, he made three serious mistakes along the way. [19:05:00] Several days ago, he came out to issue very troubling
remarks about what Democrats would like to see on abortion, on third trimester abortion, that he actually said that they would envision that the child could be delivered and then a decision would be made about abortion or about living. And that properly - that opened him up to all sorts of charges of infanticide, really hurt the party.
Then he came in yesterday not prepared for that first press conference, apologized and said it was him in the photographs, which he should have prepared himself for whatever he was going to say. And today he showed up saying what he said yesterday was wrong that he has changed his mind, he wasn't in the photograph. But he produced no evidence. Nothing that would be helpful on the other side.
He never had produced, for example, the editor of the yearbook at the med school. She hasn't been responsive to press calls. He could have - he needed her at his side to say he didn't send those pictures. This is - I don't know if it's him or not. But he had no evidence, and I think that finally did him in.
CABRERA: Well, not only is he saying this isn't me, but he's also not able to say, I never did that, I never looked like that, necessarily, specifically referring to the one person.
GERGEN: Yes, I agree.
CABRERA: Go ahead.
GERGEN: I agree. I agree. Well, let me just say one other thing--
CABRERA: Toluse, at this moment - sure.
GERGEN: Yes. OK. Let me just one last point. I'm from an old-fashioned school that says it's troubling when Washington gets in the habit of first having a hanging and then having the trial. I think in retrospect, it would have been good if he had three or four days to present evidence.
I think the burden of proof shifted to him. He had to prove it. But if he could come up with evidence in three or four days, then it seems to me that we could take a second look at this. But the way it's gone, the way - I think I'm afraid he's just let it get out of control. And now it's completely beyond him. When you have those two major Senators, two national figures in his own party, asking him to step down, you can't survive that.
CABRERA: There was another moment when we look at just how he's handled this and if he's made any missteps along the way, listen to this other portion of the presser, when Northam was asked about moonwalking, like Michael Jackson, and see how he handled this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still able to moonwalk? PAMELA NORTHAM, WIFE OF GOVERNOR RALPH NORTHAM: In appropriate circumstances.
R. NORTHAM: My wife says, "In appropriate circumstances."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Toluse, do you think Northam really understands the gravity of this situation?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it was a bizarre exchange and the entire press conference was sort of a bizarre spectacle with Governor Northam answering a bunch of different questions and really not giving the answers that cause us to not have more questions at the end of the actual press conference.
It was something that made us wonder whether or not the Governor does realize how much hot water he's in, does realize how many people have called for him to resign. He's been resistant to that so far, and the names just keep adding. You have Presidential candidates, you have the Democratic Party at the national level, you have several local leaders, you have people in his caucus that are calling on him to step aside. And he is sort of making light-hearted comments about moonwalking and Michael Jackson.
So it does sort of beg the question about whether or not he realizes how serious of a predicament he's found himself in. but at the end of the day, it does sound like he wants to fight to stay in office. And all of these calls for his resignation don't seem to be having the intended effect of causing him to sort of rethink whether or not it makes sense to be this distraction for the party and to stay in office.
It does appear that he wants to continue to fight this and try to reclaim his legacy, because if he steps aside now, obviously, he's going to be known as the blackface governor who stepped aside and resigned after these photos resurfaced. But I don't know if it's a tenable position for him to try to keep fighting when he has no one really in his corner, no member of his party really standing up and speaking up for him at this point.
CABRERA: David, I want to play devil's advocate in a way because this isn't the first time a yearbook has gotten someone into trouble. Just last year, Republicans argued during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing that someone shouldn't be held accountable for what they did in their younger years. How much should what Northam has done in the last 25 years be weighed against what he did at age 25?
GERGEN: I think it should enter into the equation, and that's why I was saying I do think that sometimes we rush to judgment on people. And you know, we hang them and then we have the trial. And I think that's very unfair to some people who've been forced out in recent years.
But having said that, look, he's not been his own best friend in this. I think Toluse is right. He doesn't seem to understand the gravity of what he is facing and he is trying to brush it off in a way that it's not working. I mean, the fact that Warner and Kaine came out - Bobby Scott came out after the press conference is extremely telling.
[19:10:00] CABRERA: And when you look at the calls for the resignation by Democrats, how swift they've been, how widespread it's grown, Toluse, does it seem like Democrats are held to a higher standard by their own party leaders than Republicans?
OLORUNNIPA: Yes, there's a clear contrast in how the Democrats were responding to this. They want to be able to have the moral high ground, when they take on President Trump, when they call out Republicans like Steve King, they want to be able to say, listen, when this happened on our own side, we were very clear in calling it out and Republicans should do the same.
We have seen Republicans sort of stand by a lot of their members that have found themselves, especially in racial controversies or have found themselves accused of mishaps in their past. They've sort of allowed things to kind of move on and allowed the news cycle to move on, swept things under the rug to an extent, and then allowed the focus of the news to move on to the next issue or the next scandal.
And Democrats are really - have proven that they're willing to sort of throw their own to the wolves, to an extent, if they realize that this is something that would cost them the moral high ground and make it difficult for them to call out their political opponents when they do the same thing.
So there is a little bit of a difference here in how Democrats are handling these types of things versus how Republicans are handling these things. And especially when it comes to race, you have to remember that the Democratic Party is much more diverse and does have a larger portion of its constituency that focus on racial issues, in part because of the makeup of the party. So these things seem to resonate a little bit more on that side of the aisle than they do for Republicans.
CABRERA: And David--
CABRERA: --having advised more than four - or at least four U.S. Presidents, if you could give Northam advice right now, what would you tell him?
GERGEN: Step down for the good of the party. Say, look, I think I should be given another chance, but in view of what is happening to our party - the Democrats believe they hold the moral high ground on questions of race and empowerment of women, and understanding and respecting young people and their aspirations. So they don't want to lose that.
And very, very importantly, he ought to recognize, one of the things that's moving this in the background is that the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia is African-American, an outstanding man who went to Duke - came from Washington D.C., went to Duke, then went on to Columbia Law School. He's been - he was out campaigning for Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum in Florida this past cycle.
So they have a very worthy, an African-American worthy, figure who's coming forward. And that makes a difference in their calculations on how to deal with this.
CABRERA: David Gergen and Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you both so much. We have a lot more to talk about--
GERGEN: Thank you.
CABRERA: --on this breaking news this hour. Three top Virginia lawmakers calling on Governor Ralph Northam to resign over this racist photo from 35 years ago. You've seen it time and time again in the last couple of hours on our shows.
Plus, the President suggests he might have a new strategy to get his wall, but it's not all that different from what we've seen before. This, as the clock ticks toward another possible shutdown. A Republican Congresswoman from Texas joins us live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Amid calls to step down, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia denies he is one of the two people seen in this racist photo that appears in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
R. NORTHAM: When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page, but I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: And he is digging in, saying he will not resign, even though he admitted to darkening his face in a separate incident around the same time when he says he dressed up as Michael Jackson at a dance contest.
With me now, Republican Congressman Kay Granger of Texas. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us. What is your reaction to what we have seen over the past 24 hours now from Northam?
REP. KAY GRANGER (R), TEXAS: When something like this happens, there are certain steps you take. You take it very seriously and you address it very honestly. And it really doesn't seem as if the Governor's responses are helping him much.
CABRERA: Do Democrats get any credit for quickly calling on Northam to step down? We haven't necessarily seen the same from Republicans with Representative Steve King, for example, although I know many in your party did rebuke him.
GRANGER: I think it was good that it was - there was an immediate response because it is a very serious thing. The request for him to step down, I can't comment on that. I don't know the case any more than just what I've heard.
CABRERA: All right. Let's pivot to the border and the budget battle in Congress. The President's sending a lot more and more, like he's going to declare a national emergency in order to get his wall. Has he made his case to you for a national emergency?
GRANGER: I think that there is - it's very serious issues at the border. We can call it a crisis or an emergency. It demands our attention. I hope the President will let the convention, the group that are working us, those of us from the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are coming together, we were given three weeks to come up with a solution.
And I hope the President will allow that to play out. We're all appropriators. We know each other. We've worked with each other for years. And a conference committee like this is a situation that occurs when major bills come up. You have - the House has their version, the Senate theirs, and then we come together to work out the differences.
[19:20:00] CABRERA: Right.
GRANGER: I think that the people on that committee, the 16 that are on that committee, are capable of doing that. And we're taking it very seriously. And I hope we'll have the time to work it out.
CABRERA: I mean, you're taking it seriously, but the President says you're wasting your time.
GRANGER: Well, we're not wasting our time. Two of the bills were already - it's not like we're starting from scratch. We're having to look at some issues and see how there can be compromises, but we're doing everything we can. Tomorrow I leave for - to visit the border, border of Texas, the border of San Diego in California, and bring some other members of Congress that are on that - on the committee that haven't seen that. So they can see what it really - what we're really dealing with. You can deal with it in talking, but--
GRANGER: --we have an enormous border. And to see the differences, I think, is very important. So I'm hosting that tomorrow morning and then coming, finishing on Tuesday in time for the State of the Union address.
CABRERA: Understanding the facts of the matter are important. So let me just throw out a couple of facts that we know. Arrests at the southern border are trending down, not up. The majority of drugs come through the ports of entry. In fact, just yesterday, customs and border protection announced the largest seizure of fentanyl in the agency's history at a port of entry. Just how necessary is this wall that the President is demanding?
GRANGER: It is very important. We've been focusing on the immigrants, but the drug situation is truly - it's terrible. Fentanyl is coming across in huge doses. And--
CABRERA: At the ports of entry.
GRANGER: --we have--
CABRERA: At the ports of entry.
GRANGER: At the ports of entry. Right. Right.
CABRERA: A wall wouldn't stop that, right?
GRANGER: Right. Now, because what we need is not just fences or barriers, that's part of it. But it's also more people at the borders looking at how we're addressing that, the ports of entry, and being very careful about the numbers that we use.
CABRERA: Which all sound like things the Democrats have said they agree with and that they're willing to provide in any kind of negotiation and deal that you all come up with. But do you even know what the President is willing to sign at this point?
GRANGER: Well, he - I know what he said. He said it'll have to have money for a barrier. I'm not going to say wall, but a barrier - a physical barrier, not everywhere, but in some places. That's why it's important that we all are seeing that and see where barriers work, such as San Diego, where they haven't worked or where they haven't been used. We need better technology.
I've been to the border so many times. I'm from Texas, and I chaired the defense appropriations and I chaired foreign operations, all our international work, at different times. So I've been to those countries numerous times. I've visited Honduras and Guatemala--
CABRERA: El Salvador?
GRANGER: El Salvador, all of those, and seen the problems in those countries. And we have to understand that for years, we have not funded like we should. We have not funded the security at our border. We haven't supported our border patrol enough. And we haven't invested the technology that can be extremely helpful. And we must do that if we're going to keep our nation safe.
CABRERA: Sounds like there's a lot of common ground between Republicans and Democrats who are working on this deal, without the wall, which seems to be the big sticking point.
Congresswoman Kay Granger, thank you very much for being here.
GRANGER: Thank you.
CABRERA: My next guest ran to become Florida's first black governor in a racially charged race. I'll get Andrew Gillum's reaction to the Virginia Governor admitting that he had previously blackened his face but is refusing to resign. That's next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Back to our breaking news this evening. Virginia's top lawmakers calling for the state's Governor, Ralph Northam, to resign after a racist photo in his medical college yearbook from 1984 surfaced, right there on the right.
Governor Ralph Northam insists it is not him in that picture, but Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and Representative Bobby Scott just released a statement moments ago saying in part, "After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him that we no longer believe he can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia and that he must resign."
Now, during today's news conference, Northam did acknowledge darkening his face once before while dressing up as Michael Jackson, he says, for a dance contest. He says, again, that is not him in the picture in the yearbook.
With us now, former candidate for Florida Governor and CNN political commentator, Andrew Gillum.
First, welcome to CNN. I want to get your reaction to how Northam has handled this.
ANDREW GILLUM, 2018 DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, AND FORMER MAYOR OF TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA: Yes. Good evening, Ana. I am, obviously like so many, just perplexed by what we've been seeing unfold over the last several hours.
Yesterday, obviously, when the news broke, it caught many of us by surprise. The Governor came in and campaigned for me in Florida. He did the same for Stacey Abrams. I certainly have never experienced him quite this way. The last several hours have - the meandering story, as it has evolved, I think has confused a lot of us.
I think where we are right now, indicative of the continuous calls for resignation, is that the Governor has probably gotten to the point where he's lost the confidence, certainly of the state Democratic leadership, the federal leadership, his own party in Virginia.
[19:30:00] And I know it's a tough and difficult thing, especially when you have been on the right side of public policy. But these are very hurtful images. And people are calling on the Governor to make a very important, selfless act at this time. And that is to allow the Lieutenant Governor, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, to become Governor and begin to help the State of Virginia begin its important process of healing.
There can be redemption, but you first have to recognize what you've done wrong. Then you have to be contrite about it. And then you've got to do the difficult soul-searching work that's required to move yourself forward and obviously then begin to move your state forward.
CABRERA: Did what he said today help or hurt him?
GILLUM: Well, I tell you, in my opinion, I thought it was extremely hurtful, to first say that he doesn't recall being in those images and then it was - he's one of those individuals, but we couldn't determine which one. Then today, he's none of those individuals, but he, back in that same year, put on shoe polish to imitate Michael Jackson. First of all, who used black shoe polish in '84 to imitate Michael Jackson? The admittance that you did use blackface but not in that incident, I mean, it just - it just didn't help today. It only added greater confusion.
And I think that's why you saw the senior and the junior Senator as well as the Dean of the Congressional delegation for the State of Virginia say that they had seen enough and now it is time to move forward. And I've also got to say, I do think that people can make mistakes. During my campaign, I talked about for former felons, returning citizens, that you shouldn't be--
GILLUM: --judged forever by your worst day. But you've still got to contend with that and those issues before we're able to move forward.
CABRERA: And you dealt with racism when you ran for Governor of Florida last year. There was that racist robot call, I remember, attacking you that included monkey-like sounds. You also lobbed accusations of racism against your opponent. So I have to ask you, are you at all surprised by this?
GILLUM: Well, of course, we're surprised. As I said, when I met Governor Northam, again, I've never had that encounter and understand it's been 35 years. And again, people are allowed to grow and to evolve, but there was a way to handle this. And I don't think that it has been handled appropriately.
And now we've gotten to the place where I believe that it is causing greater damage to the people of the State of Virginia, and it requires a very selfless act at this time to say, "You know what? I've become a distraction. It's going to be very, very difficult for people to have confidence in me and my agenda."
He is in the first year of a four-year term. We don't want the Governor to serve as a lame duck for three years. It's time to move aside. Allow Lieutenant Governor Fairfax to assume the governorship and begin to - the difficult process of healing his state and moving on and moving forward.
We're sick of having to have these conversations.
GILLUM: On the Democratic side, on the Republican side, let's just be adults about it. Treat people as human.
GILLUM: Stop these ridiculous costumes, which are not funny and tend to hurt people.
CABRERA: Andrew Gillum, good to have you with us. Thank you so much.
GILLUM: Good to be with you. CABRERA: Is a new arms race on the horizon? Russia and the U.S.
suspending nuclear war era, nuclear missile treaty? Well, this is after U.S. accused Russia of violating it. So what's next? We have details just ahead.
[19:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: It's now official, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing the U.S. will pull out of a key Reagan-era nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Now, Pompeo says, "Today the United States provided Russia and other Treaty Parties with formal notice that the United States will withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months, pursuant to Article XV of the Treaty." This coming after Russia announced this morning that it would dump the treaty if the U.S. does.
CNN's Alex Marquardt reports on the tit-for-tat moves that many fear will inch the U.S. and Russia closer to a new arms race.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning, everyone.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The United States announcing today it is suspending one of the last remaining nuclear arms treaties between the U.S. and Russia.
POMPEO: We've provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its way and for Russia to honor its commitment.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was signed by President Ronald Reagan and then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Over the past several years, the U.S. has accused Russia of violating the treaty of developing and deploying medium-range nuclear-ready missiles.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't be put at the disadvantage of going by a treaty, limiting what we do, when somebody else doesn't go by that treaty. OK?
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The Trump administration says Russia has placed battalions of missiles near the borders of Europe, not allowed by the Treaty's terms. The missile is called the 9M729. Russia recently showed off the system, but not the missile itself, to journalists and claims that it does abide by the INF.
Russia has implemented and continues to meticulously implement the requirements of the treaty, this Russian General said, and does not allow for any violations to happen.
The goal of the treaty was to prevent the two sides from developing land-based, medium-range nuclear weapons. NATO, whose members are the most threatened by the Russian moves, expressed its full support of the U.S. pulling out.
While some experts, including former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, told Jake on State of the Union, it was a dangerous thing to do.
GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Now, there are a people now who say, well, let's - we've got to get out of this treaty, we've got to get out of that treaty. Bad, terrible mistakes, which we will regret, because they don't make sense.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The biggest concern? Today's move could spark an arms race, not just with Russia but with China, which has not been constrained by the treaty and has grown exponentially more powerful over the past three decades.
ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: China is already developing these capabilities as well as strategic nuclear capabilities. You've got the North Koreans, and of course, the Russians have not only been developing these intermediate-range missiles, but hypersonic and more strategic nuclear-capable missiles as well. So we're already in a bit of an arms race now.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.
[19:40:00] CABRERA: We have much more on our breaking news this hour, including reaction from the President of the NAACP, how he is responding to the Governor's explanation for the racist photo. Next.
[19:45:00] CABRERA: Democratic Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia defiant amid calls for his resignation over a racist photo dating back three decades. It appears on his personal page in this medical school yearbook from 1984, it shows a person in blackface standing beside someone in KKK robes. But Governor Northam, who admits he submitted every other photo on this page, says this picture isn't his and that he is neither one of the two people it shows.
I talked to Derrick Johnson, the President of the NAACP, just minutes after Northam's news conference today. Here's part of our conversation.
CABRERA: I just first want to get your initial reaction to Northam's refusal to resign and his claim that he had no idea this photo was even in his yearbook.
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Whether it was him in blackface, he was at the party in the room, or the fact that it was in the yearbook, it's a demonstration of his lack of competence in terms of race relation. Blackface in 1984 was a problem as it is today. Being an individual from the south, it is a - it is unfortunately a cultural norm for too many people to accept racism.
And for him not to acknowledge this on the front end, to identify this as a problem, to object to the yearbook having blackface in the yearbook, particularly on his page, it speaks to the character of the individual and that individual's inability to understand that racism is a problem, not only in Virginia, not only in the south, but across this country.
CABRERA: This yearbook is almost 35 years old now. Do you think Northam has done enough in the last three decades to show that maybe he's a different person now, or to separate himself from everything that picture represents?
JOHNSON: Well, I think the first step should have been acknowledgement - acknowledging prior to now that this is a problem. You can't get your hands caught in a cookie jar and then say, look at me, I'm a different person, my hand just happened to be in a cookie jar.
In order for us to turn a page on race relation in this country, there must be some level of acknowledgement before one is put in the spotlight of past activities.
CABRERA: So I just am trying to understand. If he had been out there and said something about this in a more transparent fashion, prior to even being elected, that would have made a different - that would have given you a different impression of him now?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. So why now is the question. Why now? Because his political career is at stake. But what would have happened if he had come out on the front and said, you know, I have a change of heart, I understand how my participation, whether I was in blackface or didn't object to the picture in the yearbook, actually could hurt individuals and is a part of a negative history and legacy of this country. That did not happen.
Racism is something we have to deal with in this country, and you don't deal with it after you've been exposed. You deal with it before you've been exposed.
CABRERA: I hear you, but of course, as politicians, I'm sure they would expect if they - if you were to throw that out there, would he have been elected?
JOHNSON: Well, as a politician, had he thrown that out there and he showed that he had a change of heart and he was promoting public policy that would advance all Americans in a way in which we all could have been afforded access to opportunity, equal protection of the law, and received the needed services from everyone, then, yes, it would have been a bigger platform for him to stand on and he would have had a larger microphone. This would not have been used as a weapon against him. And as African-Americans, we can embrace someone who steps out front before there's an issue as opposed to getting caught and then ask for an apology.
CABRERA: What does this incident tell you about the state of race in America today?
JOHNSON: We have a long way to go. We've seen a rise in hate crimes since 2016. We have a Commander-in-Chief that allows racism and intolerance to germinate from the White House. We have public policy that's supporting that position. We have a President that I have openly called "He is a racist."
Unfortunately, we have a long way to go. But I think the 2018 midterm elections have begun to turn the corner. Many Americans are seeing that we need to be an inclusive nation, not a nation based on divisive politics. And political parties have used race as their instrument of choice to divide this nation for political outcomes.
CABRERA: Now, we have this just in. The fallout continues. Former Virginia Governor, Douglas Wilder, the State's first African-American governor, is now calling for Governor Ralph Northam's resignation. In a tweet, he says, "I stated, earlier, that Governor Northam's continuing in office was his choice to make.
[19:50:00] It is difficult for anyone who watched the press conference today to conclude that he has any other choice but to resign."
Three top Virginia federal lawmakers have also called for the Governor to resign this evening in the wake of the racist photograph. We're back in just a moment.
[19:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Imagine walking down the street, opening your front door or picking up a newspaper and discovering someone who looks just like you. What would you do? The all-new CNN original film "Three Identical Strangers" dives deep into the surreal story of identical triplets separated at birth, who miraculously reunite after many years at the age of 19. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I tell people my story, they don't believe it, but it's true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've always thought, what would it be like if you turned the corner one day and you saw yourself?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time the boys met, the three together, it was a miracle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was nothing that could keep us apart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's when things kind of got funky.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something was just not right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to know the truth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was always a question mark.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The parents had never been told.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trying to conceal what they did from the people they did it to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's still so much that we don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could you not tell us?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: It really is an incredible story. And recently, I had a chance to speak with two of the brothers, and I asked them what led them to open up their lives in this documentary.
DAVID KELLMAN, TRIPLET REUNITED AFTER 19 YEARS: It was time that this story was told. It was just - it was just time. And we thought that it would do some good, and it has.
CABRERA: Were you hesitant at all to go there?
KELLMAN: Yes. We were very hesitant. It took a long time to build up a level of trust where we felt comfortable enough to work with the production team. But once we felt that we had that level of trust, which went both ways, we saw they were all in, and we were all in.
CABRERA: Your story has so much depth. And at the beginning, you see how you are reunited, which has this surge of joy and happiness. Tell us just a little bit, without giving it away, Bobby, how you found each other. I know it started when you went off to college for the first time, right?
BOBBY SHAFRAN, TRIPLET REUNITED AFTER 19 YEARS: Basically I got up to a college where I had never been, and everybody asked me why I was back.
CABRERA: You were like, "What?"
SHAFRAN: "What?" Right.
SHAFRAN: They were saying, "Hi, Eddie. What are you doing back?" And I'm saying, "I'm not Eddie. Who's Eddie?" And a whole day of this went by. And there was a good friend of Eddie's who had returned and knew Eddie was not returning, knew Eddie was adopted, knew Eddie's birth date. So the first thing - his name is Michael (ph), a great guy - asked me was, "Were you adopted? When was your birthday?" When I told him, he said, "I think you have a twin brother." And we rushed off, and we called him and--
SHAFRAN: --things went from there.
CABRERA: What went through your mind at that moment?
SHAFRAN: It was so bizarre that I just went with it.
SHAFRAN: If your world gets turned completely upside down and inside out, it's - you know, it's something - you can't control it. You just go with it. So that's exactly what happened.
CABRERA: And as you went along this journey and you found out it wasn't just two of you, there were three of you - I know it was, at first, love and joy and happiness, but then there were some big challenges that you encountered after that initial reunification.
David, talk a little bit about what some of the big difficulties have been since your separation and reunification.
KELLMAN: Well, you realize that we had an unbelievably joyous 10 years together, the kind of joy where people are lucky if they experience for a few moments, we had last for years and years and years. In terms of the challenges, when challenges started getting in the way, most of those really had to do with being in business together, each being married for a few years, each having different home lives, things of that nature. But we had a very, very long run of just fun and love and joy and a closeness that most people never experience.
SHAFRAN: You know those, like, two seconds when a roller coaster stops? You just stopped. You haven't even gotten out of the cart yet--
SHAFRAN: --and you feel--
KELLMAN: I want to go again.
SHAFRAN: --so exhilarated. It was just--
KELLMAN: I want to go again.
SHAFRAN: It wasn't easy. It's the most incredible thing. You haven't even caught wind of it.
CABRERA: --with the highest high, right?
SHAFRAN: You haven't caught up to yourself. And--
KELLMAN: High (ph), yes.
SHAFRAN: So those few seconds - and imagine that being more than a decade, and that's kind of what we had. We were--
CABRERA: It's amazing.
SHAFRAN: We were - we really had the highest of highs in terms of happiness. And obviously, we've had some lows.
CABRERA: As people get ready to watch this film, what do you hope is their biggest takeaway?
KELLMAN: Life is short.
KELLMAN: And value your time.
SHAFRAN: Life is short. Life is valuable. But as far as a takeaway, but - there's a lot.
KELLMAN: There's a lot.
SHAFRAN: There's a lot. We don't want to spoil anything for anybody. It's - it is a roller coaster ride.
KELLMAN: It's life is short. You don't know what people are actually capable of. Things can be rationalized. There's really a lot of takeaways there.
CABRERA: Well, David, Bobby, thank you both for being--