Alabama Governor Kay Ivey apologized Thursday for appearing in blackface in a skit more than 50 years ago while a student at Auburn University. Ivey says she does not remember the incident but does not deny it happened.
Evidence of the skit appeared in a 1967 radio interview discovered by Auburn officials working to digitize university records, according to the governor’s office. They shared the material with Ivey’s office on Tuesday. In the interview, Ivey’s then-fiancé, Ben LaRavia, describes a skit at the Baptist Student Union in which Ivey wore coveralls and black paint on her face. It was called “Cigar Butts”
“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 around on the floor looking for cigar butts and things like this, which certainly got a big reaction out of the audience,” LaRavia said.
Ivey was vice president of the student government association at the time. She was married LaRavia for a short time before divorcing.
In a video released Thursday, Ivey offered her “heartfelt apologies for the pain and embarrassment this causes.” She called the skit deeply regrettable.
“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,” Ivey says.
In a statement, Ivey says she does not remember the skit, but would not “deny what is the obvious.” The statement goes on to say “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.”
The Alabama chapter of the NAACP has called on Ivey to resign.
“It may have been 52 years ago when the skit happened, but it apparently still shapes who she is today,” Alabama NAACP President Benard Simelton said in a statement. The statement noted that the Republican governor signed a law that protects longtime monuments, including Confederate monuments, from being taken down.
Ivey’s office says she does not plan to resign. A spokeswoman says “the governor’s commitment to serve the state is unchanged and unwavering.”
Alabama’s only black member of Congress, Democratic Representative Terri Sewell, says 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.”
To truly move forward, we must engage in an open & 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 & Gov. Ivey’s admission today only deepens open wounds.
— Rep. Terri A. Sewell (@RepTerriSewell) August 29, 2019
But Alabama’s Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Bobby Singleton, who is black, tells the Associated Press he appreciates Ivey “owning the incident.”
“While I think this is something that is disturbing in the African American community, for someone to make a mockery of us and our culture, I appreciate her for at least owning it and coming out publicly with it,” Singleton says.
Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan released a statement expressing support for Ivey.
“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,” Lathan says. “Her extraordinary record of public service shows her ability to work with all people regardless of race, religion or party affiliation.”