RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side has learned that State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment was an editor of a yearbook from the Virginia Military Institute that includes racist images and slurs.
The 1968 edition of The Bomb includes pictures of people in blackface. It also includes the n-word and other racial slurs. There is also a picture of a man holding a Confederate flag.
The Virginian-Pilot’s Katherine Hafner and Elisha Sauers first broke the story Thursday.
The yearbook is available online. Other students also served as various editors on the publication.
Special Coverage: Commonwealth in Crisis
The VMI yearbook has come to light as the top three Democrats in state government find themselves ensnared in controversy. The fallout started last Friday after a photograph of a person in blackface and another in a KKK outfit were found on Governor Ralph Northam’s EVMS yearbook page.
Attorney General Mark Herring has since admitted to wearing blackface to a party in 1980 after calling for Northam to resign. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is dealing with his own controversy surrounding allegations of sex assault years ago.
Norment, who is a Republican, attended college at VMI before returning to Hampton Roads to attend law school according to his online biography. He represents State Senate District 3, which includes numerous communities including parts of James City County, Gloucester County, York County, Suffolk, Hampton and Poquoson.
10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox spoke to Norment moments before news first surfaced about the yearbook.
Norment did not mention its existence when asked his thoughts on the controversy engulfing state government. Later in the afternoon, Norment told 10 On Your Side, “I don’t condone it, and I haven’t engaged in it.”
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Norment said, “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, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General would highlight the
yearbook from my graduation a half century ago.”
Norment condemned the use of blackface in his statement, saying the use of it “is abhorrent in our society.” He also said he is not in any of the photos and did not take any of them.
“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 first told 10 On your Side on camera what was going at the time the pictures appeared.
“At the time, VMI in 1968 was not integrated. I was an advocate of integration of VMI and an advocate of women at VMI, and back in that time it was not one of the most popular decisions to be made. I did not participate in taking any of those pictures.”
There was also an editor-in-chief, who was in charge of the entire publication. 10 On Your Side asked Norment if he would have questioning the photos or words at the time.
“Honestly, I don’t recall. I don’t recall seeing the pictures, and I know people are saying I don’t have any recollection and I don’t recall. That was just not part of my responsibility of proofing photographs or what was written in there.”
He said he went back to the yearbook when the crisis in Richmond began last Friday.
“I went and looked at the VMI annual. I had a number of emails and phone calls from classmates and friends about it. I am not disavowing it. It captured a picture in time, and it is totally unacceptable. I don’t make any excuses for it. I don’t condone it, and I don’t condone it today.”
The important point Norment wanted to stress is he does not condone what was in the VMI yearbook.
“I was not aware that an “n” word had been used, and I still haven’t found it. That was news to me. Had I been aware of that, I would not have condoned that. That was not the way I was raised, and it would be intolerable.”
House Speaker Kirk Cox released this statement:
“Senator Norment has emphatically condemned the racist and abhorrent photos in the yearbook, as do I. None of the photos include him, he’s spoken to his role as a member of the yearbook staff and shared his views on the admissions policy. It’s unfair to compare assisting in the production of a yearbook to the other revelations from this week.”
Andy Fox and Brett Hall are in Richmond following all of the latest developments.