Northam focused on moving forward in meeting with black leaders

By Nicole Sganga

/ CBS News

Va. reeling amid scandals for top 3 officials

Amid calls for his resignation over a racist photo in his yearbook and an admission that he once darkened his face with shoe polish, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam invited two black leaders to the governor's mansion to talk about a way forward. Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and SCLC board member and friend of King, Dr. Bernard LaFayette, spent exactly an hour Wednesday afternoon with the governor and his wife.

Steele told CBS News that he was first contacted by a member of the governor's staff, who asked whether he'd be open to meeting with Northam. Then, Northam reached out to Steele by phone soon afterward, to personally invite him for the private meeting.

"The fact that he invited me said a lot to me – that he was open to receiving me, and that he wanted to talk about moving forward," Steele said.

On Saturday, Steele called upon the governor to resign, after the press conference in which Northam revised his initial reaction to the racist yearbook photo, telling reporters that he did not believe he appeared in the photo and he did not know exactly how the picture ended up on his yearbook page. He also admitted that he had once dressed up as Michael Jackson and dabbed shoe polish on his face in the process.

"From my perspective, of course this past Saturday, I came out asking him to resign. I will not rescind that," Steele said.

Steele said that Northam opened the meeting by saying, in essence, "I'm here. I'm open. I'm trying to reconcile. I've been through a lot." And Steele was sympathetic. "I can feel that he has been through a lot," he said of Northam, adding that the governor appeared "raw," but positive.

They not discuss politics or the possibility of resignation — Northam didn't divulge to Steele whether he was considering stepping down, focusing instead on trying to move forward.

During their meeting with Northam, Steele and LaFayette also discussed a conflict resolution program they offer to leaders around the world through the SCLC. Steele offered to provide training to Northam and members of state government as a way of moving forward.

Steele says Northam did not go so far as to say his office would accept the offer, but he was receptive and open to it. "We need this at Congress. We need this at the White House," Steele told CBS.

The meeting Wednesday began at 1 p.m. and took place inside the governor's residence for a total of one hour. Steele said he and LaFayette were graciously greeted by members of the governor's staff and the first lady, who both welcomed them in with "open arms."

During the meeting, LaFayette brought up his conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just five hours before his assassination, and Northam was responsive and respectful throughout the recollection.

When Steele left the meeting, he recalled thinking: "Thank you. I really enjoyed this. It's been a pleasure."

Asked if he has forgiven Northam or changed his mind, Steele said, "I think time, time will take care of all of this. I believe more so than anything. I believe in the Chinese proverb: Behind every crisis is an opportunity."

"I'm working with the governor," Steele added. "He was open-minded." Steele has not yet been contacted by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax or Attorney General Mark Herring, both of whom are facing their own controversies.

First published on February 7, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Court OKs Eddie Lampert's bid to buy bankrupt Sears

Investor says his plan would keep more than 400 stores open and save tens of thousands of jobs

updated 43M ago

Northam meets leaders of Martin Luther King Jr.’s group

Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has refused to step down amid controversy. He met with Charles Steele, president of the SCLC and a board member who was a friend of MLK, Bernard LaFayette

updated 4M ago

Clock is ticking on border negotiations

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said the "next 72 hours are very crucial"

updated 6M ago

Frozen cat found in snowbank revived

Fluffy came into the vet looking like a snowball

updated 0M ago

Trump says U.S. has the world's "hottest" economy — he's way off

While other economies are stronger, America's is no slouch, but it is noticeably slower than just a few months ago

1H ago

Northam meets leaders of Martin Luther King Jr.’s group

Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has refused to step down amid controversy. He met with Charles Steele, president of the SCLC and a board member who was a friend of MLK, Bernard LaFayette

updated 4M ago

Clock is ticking on border negotiations

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said the "next 72 hours are very crucial"

updated 6M ago

Virginia state senator edited yearbook with racist photos in college

The images are just the latest in a string of racist imagery resurfacing for Virginia state politicians

2H ago

South Carolina lawmakers propose criminalizing abortion

It's the latest state-level push to restrict access to abortion as politicians prepare for a potential overturn of Roe v. Wade

1H ago

White House pushes global women's initiative

President Trump signed a memo Thursday launching the "Women's Global Development and Prosperity" initiative

4H ago

Discovery of WWII-era bombs temporarily shuts down Rome airport

Italy's Defense Ministry said experts had to remove the three bombs, which weighed more than 300 pounds

updated 41M ago

Global lawmakers try again to get Zuckerberg to testify

A Facebook vice president sat next to an empty chair reserved for CEO Mark Zuckerberg when the committee met in London last year

4H ago

Mexico presents plan to find thousands missing amid drug war

"Our territory has become a huge clandestine grave," government official says as he announces multi-million dollar investment

6H ago

ISIS' territory nearly gone, but is U.S. leaving job "halfway" done?

One Kurdish commander said ISIS has already established an underground network of terror cells preparing to regroup and strike back

10H ago

Venezuela's Maduro tries to block humanitarian aid from U.S.

If U.S. manages to get desperately needed food and medicine into the country, it could boost the opposition, but it may not be easy

9H ago

Old photo shows Joy Behar dressed as "African woman"

During a 2016 segment on ABC's talk show, Behar displayed a 1970s-era photo of herself at a Halloween party

updated 57M ago

Woody Allen sues Amazon over scuttled four-movie deal

The director is seeking $68 million from the tech giant, which refused to distribute Allen's latest film

3H ago

Download Oscar ballot for your office pool or party

Planning an Academy Award office pool, or an Oscar-watching party? Download our ballot of nominees (pdf)

4H ago

Cast of "My Best Friend's Wedding" reunites

Forever and ever, they'll stay in each other's hearts

5H ago

"Mobituaries": Mo Rocca on the enduring popularity of Audrey Hepburn

In her 1951 debut for American TV audiences, the actress re-enacted her wartime experience during the Nazi occupation of Holland

7H ago

Global lawmakers try again to get Zuckerberg to testify

A Facebook vice president sat next to an empty chair reserved for CEO Mark Zuckerberg when the committee met in London last year

4H ago

NASA and SpaceX reset Crew Dragon test flight for March 2

The Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft are the centerpieces of NASA's drive to resume launching U.S. astronauts aboard U.S. rockets from U.S. soil

22H ago

Earth could be headed for warmest period on record

The next five years could be even hotter than 2018, which was already near record territory

9H ago

Snap reports record revenues, but struggles to add users

Struggling social media company gets a badly needed boost in growth, while its losses narrowed

Feb 5

Dinosaur that used spiny back to defend itself found in Patagonia

The new species of dicraeosauridae, christened Bajadasaurus pronuspinax, was revealed in scientific journal Nature

Feb 5

Walgreens tops list for illegal cigarette sales to minors

FDA says the drugstore chain has racked up nearly 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to children

1H ago

Ozzy Osbourne hospitalized after flu complications

"His doctors feel this is the best way to get him on a quicker road to recovery," tweeted his wife Sharon

20H ago

Pet owners report dog deaths from recalled food

While one company is facing rash of unhappy consumers, it's one of at least 10 that distributed potentially toxic food

Feb 6

New moms hit especially hard by opioid crisis

Research shows new mothers with opioid use disorder are at a higher of overdose due to lack of resources, shame and stigma

7H ago

Dad travels to Canada for son's medicine that would cost $53K in U.S.

In his State of the Union address, President Trump said his next major priority is lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs

Feb 6

Court OKs Eddie Lampert's bid to buy bankrupt Sears

Investor says his plan would keep more than 400 stores open and save tens of thousands of jobs

updated 43M ago

Trump says U.S. has the world's "hottest" economy — he's way off

While other economies are stronger, America's is no slouch, but it is noticeably slower than just a few months ago

1H ago

Walgreens tops list for illegal cigarette sales to minors

FDA says the drugstore chain has racked up nearly 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to children

1H ago

U.S. oil and gas boom powers nation's fastest-growing industry

With America now the world's top oil and natural gas producer, the extraction industry will top them all in 2019

2H ago

Ikea exploring first foray into renting furniture

Housewares giant will test rental program this spring as it looks to attract new customers and adapt to changing habits

2H ago

Body found stuffed in suitcase identified as missing woman

Her body was found in a large suitcase roughly 20 feet off a busy roadway

2H ago

Feds open inquiry into billionaire's sex abuse plea deal

Jeffrey Epstein reached a deal in 2008 to secretly end a federal sex abuse case involving at least 40 teenage girls

7H ago

Questions persist in county's third Taser-related death

Family members say they have seen "shocking" videos that contradict the police account of Chinedu Okobi's death

2H ago

Caught on video: Man shooting school bus driver in head

Driver's wounds aren't life-threatening but police say incident's recklessness was "mind-numbing

14H ago

Man accused of kidnapping Jayme Closs appears in court

Jake Patterson faced a judge in person for the first time

Feb 6