Former vice president Al Gore said Tuesday that embattled Virginia governor Ralph Northam can atone for the appearance of a racist photo in his medical-school yearbook by opposing the construction of a natural-gas pipeline in Buckingham County, Va.
Gore argued that the pipeline was “racist” while addressing residents of Union Hill, a rural town outside Richmond that was established by freed slaves.
“This proposed pipeline is a reckless, racist rip-off,” Gore said of the Atlantic Coast pipeline, according to the Associated Press. “This is an ideal opportunity for [Northam] to say, ‘I’ve seen the light.’”
Environmental activists oppose the construction of a pipeline, which would carry natural gas fracked in West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina, because it requires a compressor station that they claim would release noxious fumes into the community. Proponents argue that the pipeline would spur economic development and would not adversely effect residents’ health.
Reverend William Barber II, a social-justice advocate who addressed residents alongside Gore at the Buckingham Middle School, said Dominion, the lead developer on the pipeline project, is “practicing sin.”
“I want to say tonight that any governor or legislator, Democrat or Republican . . . that has chosen Dominion over this community is scandalous,” Barber said.
Northam faced near-unanimous calls to resign from fellow national and state Democrats after the publication earlier this month of a racist photo that appeared in his 1984 medical-school yearbook. The governor initially admitted to appearing in the photo, which shows one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan uniform, but later denied appearing in the image during a press conference in which he admitted to wearing blackface on another occasion. He has since insisted that he intends to remain in office and will commit the remainder of his term to pursuing policies of racial equity.