August 29, 2019 / 10:03 PM / 3 months ago

Alabama governor apologizes over blackface episode from student days

Aug 29 (Reuters) - Alabama Governor Kay Ivey acknowledged on Thursday she wore blackface during a college skit in the 1960s and she apologized for the episode, becoming the latest U.S. politician to be embarrassed by a racially-charged incident from decades ago.

Ivey, a Republican, made her apology after an audio tape emerged of a 1960s radio interview she and her then fiance, Ben LaRavia, gave when she was a student at Auburn University in Alabama. In the interview, LaRavia described a recent comedy sketch they had been in.

“As I look at my fiancée across the room I can see her that night, she had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paint all over her face and we were acting out this skit called ‘cigar butts,’” LaRavia said in the interview.

Ivey, 74, who is white, said in a statement on Thursday she does not remember the skit but that, based on the radio interview, it would have occurred at a Baptist Student Union party.

“Even though Ben is the one on tape remembering the skit - and I still don’t recall ever dressing up in overalls or in blackface - I will not deny what is the obvious,” Ivey said.

“As such, I fully acknowledge – with genuine remorse – my participation in a skit like that back when I was a senior in college,” she said.

Alabama State Representative Juandalynn Givan, a Democrat and an African-American, called on Ivey to resign, according to local media outlet AL.com.

“I don’t accept her apology,” Givan was quoted as saying by AL.com.

But Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, a Democrat who also is African-American, told AL.com he thought Ivey’s apology was sincere.

VIRGINIA CONTROVERSY

Six months ago, Virginia politics were thrown into turmoil when a racist photo emerged from a 1980s medical school yearbook for the state’s Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat.

The photo, which was on Northam’s page on the yearbook, showed one person in blackface makeup and another in the robes of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.

Northam, 59, initially admitted to having appeared in the photo and apologized. He later changed his story here saying he did not believe he was pictured, but had performed in blackface to impersonate the singer Michael Jackson at about that time.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, 57, also a Democrat, admitted in February that he wore blackface at a party in the 1980s. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Grant McCool)

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