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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey apologizes for participation in racist skit in college

Updated: Aug. 29, 2019 at 3:31 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey is apologizing after an interview surfaced indicating she wore blackface during a skit at Auburn University.

Ivey said she’s been made aware of a taped interview that she and her then-fiance Ben LaRavia gave to the Auburn student radio station in 1967, when she was the Student Government Association’s Vice President. The interview describes a skit she and LaRavia reportedly performed in at a Baptist Student Union party.

Listen to the audio of the interview here:

“As I look at my fiancé across the room, I can see her that night, she had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paint all over her face and we were acting out this skit called Cigar Butts,” he said.

According to Ivey, she does not recall either performing in the skit or participating in the interview 52 years ago. She also doesn’t recall wearing blackface, but she said she will not deny that she did.

“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 also issued a video message expanding on her apology, saying the state still has a long way to go in the area of racial tolerance and mutual respect.

“I assure each of you that I will continue exhausting every effort to meet the unmet needs of this state,” she said. “Alabamians will continue to be at the forefront of defining our promising future.”

Watch her full apology below:

Gina Maiola, press secretary for Gov. Ivey, said the administration was made aware of the interview Tuesday evening and Ivey heard the audio Wednesday morning.

“It is my understanding that Auburn University has an ongoing larger effort by the AU Library to digitize years of audio tapes — which have been previously aired — that featured Auburn students and their stories,” Maiola said.

In February, the Auburn Plainsman reported a yearbook photo showing five young white woman wearing black masks and shirts depicting caricatures of black people appeared on Alpha Gamma Delta’s page in 1967. Ivey was a member of the sorority at the time the photo was taken, but she denied knowing about the page.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan:

"The Alabama Republican Party appreciates and supports Governor Kay Ivey taking ownership of and responsibility for this 50 plus year old incident. 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. Her extraordinary record of public service shows her ability to work with all people regardless of race, religion or party affiliation. We stand with Governor Ivey uniting our state for a greater future.”

State Sen. Del Marsh, Senate President Pro Tempore:

“Governor Ivey has expressed her deepest apologies for this incident. I have worked with her in various capacities over the previous decade and I know that today she is not a person who would participate in something like that. I hope we as a state can put this behind us.”

State Sen. Bobby Singleton:

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-District 7:

“Racism – in any of its forms – is never acceptable, not in the 1960s and not now. 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.

“In order to truly move forward, we must engage in an open and honest dialogue about race and our state’s painful past to ensure no group of Alabamians feels marginalized. Alabama cannot escape its painful history without reconciliation, and Governor Ivey’s admission today only deepens open wounds.

“Only real efforts, not words, can end the racial disparities that exist in Alabama in health care, education, wealth and housing, to name a few. Governor, there’s a lot of work to do!”

Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP:

"The Alabama NAACP is disappointed in learning of Governor Kay Ivey’s blackface skits in the 1960′s. Although Governor Ivey has apologized for her participation in such divisive and racist events, it still does not erase the fact that she participated in these activities that mocked and intimidated African Americans.

The question for voters to asks themselves, is how can Governor Kay Ivey be a governor for all the people of Alabama especially those she mocked and intimidated? It may have been 52 years ago when the skit happened, but it apparently still shapes who she is today.

She refused to meet with the NAACP two years ago to discuss Race Relations in Alabama. She has not taken steps to Expand Medicaid in Alabama, she gladly signed bills to protect one of the most racist American symbols, the confederate flag and monuments.

The NAACP believes she need to do the right thing and resign as Governor."

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