Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday that she should not have worn blackface in a college skit decades ago, but she does not plan to resign over something that happened so long in the past.
In her first public appearance since issuing a public apology last week, Ivey, 74, reiterated that she was wrong to appear in the skit over 50 years ago and that it does not reflect who she is today. The Republican governor said she has no plans to quit.
“Heavens no, I’m not going to resign. It’s something that happened 52 years ago and I’m not that person. My administration stands on being inclusive and helping people,” the Republican governor said.
Ivey last week apologized after a 1967 college radio interview surfaced of her then-fiance Ben LaRavia describing her wearing “black paint all over her face” in a skit called “Cigar Butts” at skit night at the Baptist Student Union. Her office released the recording after university officials discovered it while working on a project to preserve old university records.
Her admission of wearing black face came after she had told The Associated Press in February that she had never done so. Ivey said Tuesday that she doesn’t remember the skit.
“I was shocked to hear the tape. I didn’t remember being at the Baptist Student Union in any kind of skit like that for sure. But I’ve apologized for it. I should not have done that. I know it’s important to apologize to the people of Alabama,” Ivey said Tuesday.
Ivey’s public apology drew a mixed reaction.
The Alabama NAACP on Tuesday repeated a call for Ivey to resign. The group pointed to some of her actions as governor, including signing legislation to protect Confederate monuments and other historic statues from being torn down.
“The NAACP believes Governor Ivey needs to do the right thing and resign as Governor and let someone lead the people of Alabama into a brighter and more inclusive future, not the status quo,” Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP, said in a written statement.
The organization said if Ivey is serious about racial reconciliation, she should consider policies such as Medicaid expansion to “level the playing field in areas of education, and healthcare.”
Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, who is African American, said last week that he appreciated Ivey “owning” the incident and apologizing for it.
Ivey said Tuesday that she has mostly received positive reactions.
Ivey is the latest politician to face scrutiny over wearing blackface decades ago. A racist photo in the medical school yearbook of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam led to calls for his resignation. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also acknowledged wearing blackface in college.
The skit, which appeared to have taken place in 1967, came three years after the first African American student entered Auburn and six years after segregationist Gov. George Wallace’s infamous stand in the school house door to try to block the entry of two African American students at the University of Alabama.
In the radio interview, LaRavia brought up the skit when asked to share their “most hilarious moments” from the skit night. LaRavia said if they ever forget their college days, “all we’d need to do is come back to the Auburn BSU and look at some of those pictures they took that night and I understand we would be quite humbled at this.”
“That’s true,” Ivey replied with a laugh.
Ivey’s 1967 senior year yearbook, The Glomerata, shows five of her sorority sisters wearing blackface portraying “minstrels” in a rush skit. Its caption reads, “Alpha Gam Minstrels welcome rushees aboard their showboat.” The photo is on the same page as a description of the sorority and the accomplishments of its members. The page notes that Ivey was vice president of the student body.
Ivey told The Associated Press in February she didn’t remember the skit or participate in it. When asked if she had done anything that could be perceived as racially insensitive, Ivey replied, “I sure hope not.”