Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey apologizes for participating in blackface skit in college
(CNN) — Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday apologized for participating in a skit that involved blackface when she was a college student in the 1960s, offering “heartfelt apologies for the pain and embarrassment this causes.”
Ivey said in a statement Thursday that she had been made aware of her participation in the skit through audio that emerged of an interview she had given alongside her then-fiance, Ben LaRavia, to the Auburn University student radio station in 1967.
“Even after listening to the tape, I sincerely do not recall either the skit, which evidently occurred at a Baptist Student Union party, or the interview itself, both which occurred 52 years ago. 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.”
Ivey added that “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.”
Her involvement and apology were previously reported by AL.com.
In the Auburn student radio interview — which was provided by the governor’s office — LaRavia recalls acting out a skit with Ivey called “Cigar Butts” in which she “had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paint all over her face.”
Ivey spokesperson Gina Maiola told CNN that the governor also reached out to Alabama lawmakers Thursday to “express her remorse.”
But some Democratic lawmakers were quick to condemn Ivey’s participation in the skit, including US Rep. Terri Sewell, who said the governor’s admission “only deepens open wounds” of racism.
“Racism — in any of its forms — is never acceptable, not in the 1960s and not now,” Sewell said. “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.”
Democratic state Rep. John Rogers called for Ivey to step down, according to AL.com. “If she did that, she is insensitive,” he said. “She needs to step down. She needs to be governor of all people.”
Still, the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, Terry Lathan, said in a statement Thursday that “we stand with Governor Ivey uniting our state for a greater future.”
“The Alabama Republican Party appreciates and supports Governor Kay Ivey taking ownership of and responsibility for this 50-plus year old incident,” she said. “While it occurred when she was a college student, Governor Ivey has stood up, admitted her mistake and offered a sincere apology though she has no recollection of the event.”
In a video message expanding on her statement Thursday, Ivey said, “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.”
On Friday, President Donald Trump defended Ivey in comments to reporters at the White House.
“I don’t know much about it but I’ve just seen something come off the wires, but she’s a very high-quality woman, Kay Ivey. Very, very high-quality woman, I can tell you — and I know she apologized,” Trump said ahead of his departure to Camp David.