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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey Apologizes For Wearing Blackface In College Skit

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Alabama's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, is apologizing for wearing blackface as part of a skit when she was a college student. It happened 50 years ago when Ivey was at Auburn University, but today, that incident is provoking calls for her to resign. Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gazette reports.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: Reportedly, there are no pictures of Governor Kay Ivey wearing blackface. The evidence that it happened came in the form of a 1967 radio interview during which her then-fiance, Ben LaRavia, describes her appearance.

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BEN LARAVIA: As I look at my fiancee 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 she was - we were acting out this skit called Cigar Butts.

GASSIOTT: LaRavia says that during the skit, Ivey crawled on the floor pretending to look for cigar butts. Later in the interview, when Ivey's asked to react to LaRavia's description, she laughingly says...

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KAY IVEY: Well, that was just my role for the evening.

GASSIOTT: But Ivey wasn't laughing in a video she released on Thursday in which she apologized for her participation in the skit, which she calls deeply regrettable.

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IVEY: 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.

GASSIOTT: Ivey has said that she doesn't remember the incident but isn't disputing what LaRavia said in the interview. There have been messages of support from Republicans and Democrats, but there have also been calls for Ivey to resign. Democrat Juandalynn Givan is a state representative from Birmingham.

JUANDALYNN GIVAN: I think that my colleagues in the House, some of them in the House and the Senate, black and white, are some of the biggest hypocrites I've ever seen in my life, Republican and Democrat.

GASSIOTT: She says her colleagues don't want to risk the political consequences that come with denouncing the governor, and it bothers her that some of them have excused Ivey's actions because they happened over 50 years ago.

GIVAN: But I think about the '60s. I think about the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think about the death of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy. I think about the death of Malcolm X. I think about the death of all of those individuals who fought injustice and for justice for all.

GASSIOTT: And when asked if the protests in the state will force Ivey to resign, Givan says that she doesn't believe so. For NPR News, I'm Kyle Gassiott in Montgomery. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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