After Ralph Northam finally came clean yesterday and announced his support for energy pipeline construction in Virginia – after spending months running away from attempt to pin him down on the topic – his campaign is now desperately trying to walk back his words. Northam’s spokesman released a statement saying that “his position has not changed,” urging reporters to accept that this is “the same thing he has been saying all along.”
But let’s review Northam’s actual statement from his appearance yesterday on the John Fredericks Show:
JOHN FREDERICKS: “Alright so it sounds like what you’re saying that if it’s approved by the federal FERC agency, if they get that signed off, that you as – if you’re governor of Virginia – that you’re going to nothing to hinder it, stand in the way, or delay it, that you’re going to be enthusiastic and go forward with this. Is that what I’ve heard?”
RALPH NORTHAM: “Sure and you know again it’s – the permitting process is – not to get into it, to the weeds of all this but you know we’ve gone from a blank permit to more of a site-specific just to look at where there’s streams and rivers so you know if it’s done safely and responsibly then it’s going to move forward.”
Northam gave an unequivocally supportive response when asked if he would “be enthusiastic and go forward with” pipeline projects. On every single previous occasion he had been asked for a yes or no’ answer on whether he supported pipelines, Northam had refused to do so, instead reciting the same set of carefully prepared talking points or running away as fast as possible from the question:
But it’s no surprise that Northam would want to avoid aligning himself against the anti-pipeline elements of his party. During his divisive primary against Tom Perriello, Northam was routinely harassed by protesters who demanded he come clean on his pipeline position while Perriello slammed him for continuing “to dodge a very simple answer about the pipeline.” The anti-pipeline protesters even hijacked the stage of Northam’s victory party last month and made it clear they “aren’t going anywhere.”
Whether Northam’s coming out in support of pipeline projects yesterday was a candid admission or an intentional reveal, his decision to take the opposite position of thousands of Virginia Democrats who voted for Tom Perriello and even his own running mate Justin Fairfax, will surely cause him more headaches as he tries to unify his party to win in November. And no matter how hard his campaign staff try to spin what he said, Northam cannot escape his own words.