The Democratic state attorney general who could become Virginia’s governor if the current top dog in Richmond and his deputy both resign has a potentially disqualifying scandal of his own.
Mark Herring told members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus during an emergency closed-door meeting that he wore blackface on at least one occasion while he was a University of Virginia student in 1980.
Moments later sources told
In a statement to the media, Herring said Wednesday morning that ‘[i]n 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song.’
‘It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.’
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday that, like Governor Ralph Northam, he once wore blackface to dress up like an African-American
Herring (center) with former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (left) and current Gov. Ralph Northam (right)
Mark Herring’s Facebook page featured photos of him with prominent Democrats as he’s seen here with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
Herring speaks with former Vice President Joe Biden
‘This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct. That conduct clearly shows that, as a young man, I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.’
Mark Warner, one of Virginia’s two Democratic U.S. senators, told reporters at the Capitol in Washington: ‘I’m shocked and incredibly disappointed. This has been an awful week for Virginia.’
Fallout continues to accumulate from Governor Ralph Northan’s admission that he wore blackface after graduating from medical school, and a sexual assault allegation against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax dating back 15 years.
The deepening scandal now puts Virginia’s three top officials – all of them Democrats – in danger of being forced out of office.
If they should all step down, a Republican, State Assembly Speaker Kirkland Cox, would take over the statehouse. Unless Northan were to remain governor, whoever holds his office could run for a full term in 2021 despite the state’s ‘one and your done’ term-limit law.
That outcome would mean a single November 2017 legislative race would have decided things: Election officials drew lots to determine the winner of a tied election that was decisive in awarding Republicans a one-seat edge in the assembly, and, thus, the power to Cox as speaker.
In a further twist, Cox would lead a state assembly impeachment process if lawmakers decided to try to force the embattled Democrats out.
If all three Democrats should all step down, a Republican, State Assembly Speaker Kirkland Cox (above) would take over as governor
Ralph Northam has denied being in a racist photograph that appeared in his 1984 school yearbook and is refusing all calls to step down, although he admitted wearing blackface to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest after he graduated from medical school
The yearbook page from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook is seen above. He claimed he had not bought or seen his yearbook in the last 34 years
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, told reporters: ‘I’m shocked and incredibly disappointed. This has been an awful week for Virginia’
The scandals, which have piled one on top of another since Northam’s photo was revealed on Friday, have rocked the Democratic establishment in Virginia.
Northam had a comfortable win for Democrats in 2017 – a time when the party was concerned about the power of President Donald Trump to bring out Republicans.
Fairfax’s win as lieutenant governor is his first time in elective office but the young African American former prosecutor was seen as a rising star and one to watch on the national scene.
Fairfax denied Monday that he forced a woman into oral sex in hotel room in 2004 during the Democratic national convention.
His denial came as the state’s governor, Ralph Northam, continued to refuse to resign in the wake of his admission that he once covered his face in shoe polish to impersonate Michael Jackson.
Fairfax, 39, was revealed late Sunday to be have been accused of forcing oral sex during a hotel room encounter when he was campaigning for John Kerry’s failed presidential bid.
On Monday he denied assaulting anyone and claimed he was the focus of a ‘smear.’
He also claimed in a written statement that the Washington Post had investigated the claim when he ran for lieutenant governor but had not pursued it because of ‘significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations.’
But within hours that claim was called ‘incorrect’ by the
Denial: Virginia lieutenant governor Justin has denied once forcing a woman into oral sex, and snapped in a recent meeting: ‘F**k that b***h!’ according to people who were there
Unprecedented: Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax declined to defend the governor, Ralph Northam, but was himself engulfed in his own scandal with accusations of forced sex and lies
Stanford University fellow Vanessa Tyson reportedly suggested in a private Facebook post that Fairfax sexually assaulted her. The post was obtained by Big League Politics. Her description lines up with Justin Fairfax, the Virginia lieutenant general’s biography
The Post did not name the woman, but the website
It published a private social media posting made on Sunday, which Tyson was said to have given permission to make public, which said: ‘Imagine you were sexually assaulted during the DNC Convention in Boston in 2004 by a campaign staffer.
‘You spend the next 13 years trying to forget it ever happened. Until one day uo find out he’s the Democratic candidate for statewide office in a state some 3000 miles away, and we wins that election in November 2017.
‘Then by some strange, horrible luck, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll get a VERY BIG promotion.’
Tyson lives in Los Angeles, roughly 3,000 miles from Virginia, and the biographical details align with Fairfax.
She is a Scripps College professor who is currently a Stanford fellow. Her fellowship is focusing, according to the college’s website, on ‘politics and policies surrounding sexual violence against women and children in the United States.
‘More specifically, she will explore political discourse surrounding sexual assault, corresponding policies, and the unique identities of sexual assault survivors.’
It notes that Tyson, a Princeton and University of Chicago graduate, has volunteered as an advocate for sexual violence awareness and prevention. DailyMail.com has reached out to her for comment.
Fairfax and the Washington Post both confirmed that the newspaper investigated allegations of an assault at the convention – although neither named the alleged victim.
The account given in the Post said that the woman was left ‘crying and shaken.’
‘She said Fairfax guided her to the bed, where they continued kissing, and then at one point she realized she could not move her neck,’ the newspaper reported.
‘She said Fairfax used his strength to force her to perform oral sex.’
The Washington Post said Monday that it was approached by the woman in 2017 and carefully investigated but never published a story for lack of any independent evidence.
Outspoken: Vanessa Tyson – whose social media post calling herself a sex assault survivor aligns with the Washington Post investigation into VA Lt Gov Justin Fairfax for sex assault – has used Twitter to pass comment on issues around sexual assault, including the Brett Kavanaugh nomination hearing
The Post said the woman had not told anyone about it, the account could not be corroborated, Fairfax denied it, and the Post was unable to find other similar allegations against him among people who knew him in college, law school or in politics.
WUSA9 was also aware of the claim and decided against airing it after it could not corroborate the story, the news channel said.
A statement from his office early Monday morning denied the charge and said, ‘Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect.
‘He has never assaulted anyone – ever – in any way, shape, or form.’
At the state capitol, Fairfax told reporters it was a ‘smear.’
He was speaking as Northam held talks with his cabinet – but not Fairfax – over whether he should quit after the blackface revelations.
He had held on over the weekend despite a disastrous three days which saw him first admit he was in the yearbook picture, then deny it, then admit he put on shoe polish to impersonate Michael Jackson, use a press conference to say it was difficult to get off, and only be stopped by his wife from Moonwalking, and be called on to resign by dozens of senior Democrats.
Fairfax is poised to take over for Northam if the Virginia governor has to resign.
Fairfax has experienced a brief, meteoric rise through Virginia politics. His supporters have touted him as a fresh face whose charisma has allowed him to connect with voters. His detractors suggest he is unproven and inexperienced.
His ascension could mean that the racial scandal dogging Northam would end with an African-American governor trying to lead the Democratic Party to a takeover of the legislature in November and potentially, through a quirk of law, being able to serve more than one term.
If Fairfax also falls over the sexual assault allegations, Attorney General Mark Herring would be put in charge. He is a Democrat so far unaffected by the dual scandals.
The job moves next to the Speaker of the House of Delegates – a Republican – before a vote in the legislative body to fill the vacancy if the aforementioned office-holders are unable to do the job.
Virginia’s House speaker, Kirk Cox,, said Monday that the body is unlikely to impeach Northam, moving the pressure back to the governor’s mansion.
The state’s constitution lists ‘malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor’ as reasons for impeachment.
Cox said that ‘regardless of the veracity of the photograph the governor has lost the confidence of the people and cannot effectively govern,’ and should therefore resign.
President Donald Trump has not called on Northam to resign, and he has not commented on the allegations against Fairfax.
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said she had not talked to the president about the newest comments and pointed to tweets he sent over the weekend, as it pertains to Northam.
‘He just has made clear the way he feels about it. It is confounding to many people, it turns out, that the sitting governor, the Democrat in Virginia, is still there despite the calls from many leaders and close to all the 2020 aspirants on the Democratic side have called on him to resign,’ she said.
Time to go: Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam was the focus of protests in Richmond
Pressure point: Ralph Northam has now hung on since Friday’s revelation of the contents of his yearbook page and is facing more calls to go
A photo on Northam’s yearbook page depicts a man in blackface and another in a KKK robe. Northam said he felt sick when he saw the image recently, despite covering his face in shoe polish to emulate Michael Jackson
Pressed by DailyMail.com to unequivocally answer the resignation question, she said: ‘The president has said he thinks it’s unforgivable and unconscionable – you can go back to his tweet and his words – that this person apologized and then went back and said it wasn’t me, I didn’t do it.’
Protest chants, meanwhile, echoed around Capitol Square in Richmond, VA.
Lobbyists complained they were unable to get legislators to focus on bills. Security guards joked about who was going to be the next governor. Cafeteria workers and members of the cleaning staff shook their heads in wonder.
And banks of news cameras were set up outside the governor’s Executive Mansion.
Northam stayed out of sight as he met with his Cabinet and senior staff to hear their assessment of whether it was feasible for him to stay in office, according to a top administration official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The meetings included frank conversations about the difficulties of governing under such circumstances, the person said.
Calls from lawmakers for Northam’s resignation seemed to ease Monday. Delegate LaMont Bagby, head of the Legislative Black Caucus, said there was little left to say: ‘I’m going to let him breathe a little bit, give him space to make the right decision.’
The president of the NAACP on Sunday joined the chorus of other voices calling on Northam to resign as the pressure mounts on him to leave the gubernatorial mansion in the wake of a racist photo appearing in his medical school yearbook.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson had told ABC’s ‘This Week’ he doesn’t think Northam can survive the scandal surrounding the 1984 photo.
And former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe reiterated his call for his former lieutenant governor to step down and said it was ‘morally’ the right thing to do.
‘I called Ralph on Friday night. It was one of the hardest things I had to do, was my lieutenant governor,’ he said Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’
‘We worked closely together. We did so many great things working together for the Commonwealth of Virginia. But once that picture with the blackface and the Klansman came out, there is no way you can continue to be the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia,’ he added.
He indicated resignation was ‘morally the only right thing to do.’
Northam has resisted the calls to step down from Democratic Party leaders
including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Both of Virginia’s Senators, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, joined with the dean of the state’s Congressional delegation, Rep. Bobby Scott, in a rare joint statement calling for Northam to step down.
President Trump also weighed in, calling Northam’s behavior ‘unforgivable.’
Northam said he admitted to being in the photo because didn’t buy his school yearbook and hadn’t seen it but realized on reflection he wasn’t in the picture
The car crash press conference Saturday was not enough to make him quit, however.
The 59-year-old from Nassawadox admitted dressing up as the late singer, wearing similar footwear, a glove and shoe polish to look like an African-American person.
During the excruciating appearance in the Executive Mansion on Capitol Hill in Richmond, he said he later learned from a friend Seth that doing so for a dance competition was indeed inappropriate and he apologized to his friend at the time.
He was 25 when he deemed it okay to cover his face in shiny black wax at least two decades after the Civil Rights movement decried it.
Northam appeared to try to soften the offensive occasion by revealing he won the contest he did it for.
Making his revelation worse, he told attendees the reason why he only wore a ‘little bit’ of shoe polish was because it’s difficult to remove.
‘I don’t know if anybody’s tried this…’ he said to the shocked room. But it didn’t explain why he was wearing blackface to show off his dance talent during the skit.
Northam told the audience during question time: ‘I have discussed this with a person of color. I apologized to him.’
Despite his revelation about donning blackface to do the Moonwalk, Northam said he felt sick after seeing the image of people wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and blackface and would remember if he had done so.
He made the contradictory statement to a room full of people eager to know why he admitted to something he claims now not to have done, but Northam didn’t manage to provide a clear explanation.
‘When my staff showed me the photo in question I had seen it for the first time,’ he claimed. ‘I didn’t purchase the yearbook and didn’t know they appeared on my page. On a yearbook page that belongs to me. It is disgusting.’
Northam added that his former classmates backed up his belief he was not in the photo but said he didn’t ever see the offending photo.
He jumped ahead of people being skeptical by adding: ‘Many people will find this difficult to believe me.’
Ralph Northam’s medical school roommate says governor WASN’T in KKK robe or blackface at infamous photographed Halloween party and instead dressed as a lawyer – although politician claims he wasn’t even there
Ralph Northam’s medical school roommate has backed his claimed that the Virginia governor was not in the racist photo that appeared in their 1984 yearbook – but contradicted the Democratic politician’s claim that he was not at the Halloween party where it was taken.
Rob Marsh, who attended Eastern Virginia Medical School with Northam, said he doesn’t think it was the governor wearing blackface and standing next to a man dressed as a member of the KKK.
‘No, I don’t think it’s him. I don’t think it looks like him. Ralph is thinner than the people in the picture,’ he told
Ralph Northam in a Saturday press conference denied being in a racist photograph in his 1984 school yearbook, said he didn’t attend the party, and is refusing all calls to step down