MONTGOMERY, AL — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey apologized Thursday for participating in a skit when she was in college that featured white people wearing blackface.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Ivey said she was made aware of a taped interview that she and her then-fiance, Ben LaRavia, gave to an Auburn University student radio station when she was a student there that apparently referenced the skit. She said she did not remember the specifics of the skit.
“She had on a blue coveralls, she had put some black paint all over her face, and we were acting out this skit called Cigar Butts,” LaRivia said in the interview, which the governor’s office released with Ivey’s statement. “I could not go into a lengthy explanation, but to say the least, I think this skit, it did not require a lot of talent, as far as verbal talent. But it did require a lot of physical acting, such as crawling on the floor looking for cigar butts and things like this.”
Ivey said she did not remember specifics of the incident but did acknowledge that it occurred.
“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.
“While some may attempt to excuse this as acceptable behavior for a college student during the mid-1960s, that is not who I am today, and it is not what my Administration represents all these years later.
“I offer my heartfelt apologies for the pain and embarrassment this causes, and I will do all I can – going forward – to help show the nation that the Alabama of today is a far cry from the Alabama of the 1960s. We have come a long way, for sure, but we still have a long way to go.”
Ivey issued this video apology via Alabama Political Reporter:
At least three Birmingham lawmakers have called for Ivey’s resignation over the incident. Rep. Juandalynn Givan of Birmingham said, “I don’t care if it was 52 years ago or yesterday. She is the governor of the state of Alabama, which is still considered one of the most racist states in the U.S.”
Givan added, “She should resign. I don’t thing she should have been elected, and I think she is a racist.”
Rep. John Rogers also called for Ivey to resign. “If she did that she is insensitive,” Rogers said in an Alabama Media Group report. “She needs to step down. She needs to be governor of all people.”
“Racism – in any of its forms – is never acceptable, not in the 1960s and not now,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “Governor Ivey’s actions were reprehensible and are deeply offensive. Her words of apology ring hollow if not met with real action to bridge the racial divide.”
“Obviously, somebody found something stupid she probably did when she was in college and I’ll just say that I am so grateful that we didn’t have Facebook in the 60s and 70s, said Rep. Mike Ballof Madison. “People do stupid things when they are young. I know that I’m not the same person that I was when I was that age.”
Ivey is not the first politician whose past participation in racially insensitive activity has come back to haunt them. Earlier this year, news surfaced that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam reportedly posed in blackface for a medical school yearbook photo, although an independent investigation was unable to determine that the person in the photo was Northam.
In 2014, Washington state mayoral candidate David Sponheim said he had to paint his face black to bring authenticity to his Barack Obama costume, arguing that black people can dress up as whites without backlash, such as in the 2004 comedy “White Chicks,” according to a ThinkProgress report.
In 2015, Bill Helton, a mayoral candidate in Oklahoma, responded to critics of his blackface drag performance by denying he was a racist.