Virginia AG Admits He Wore Blackface at College Party

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring speaks at the Virginia Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson party fundraising dinner at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., June 26, 2015. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Virginia attorney general Mark Herring, who would assume the governorship should Governor Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax resign due to their own scandals, admitted Wednesday that he wore blackface at a college party in 1980.

“In 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,” Herring wrote in a statement. “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 experience and perspective of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Herring’s revelation is the latest in a string of scandals that have embroiled Virginia Democrats in recent days.

Prominent national and Virginia Democrats began calling for Governor Northam’s resignation on Friday, after the emergence of a photo, featured on his 1984 medical-school-yearbook page, that depicts two men, one wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume and the other in blackface.

After initially apologizing and conceding that he did appear in the picture, Northam reversed himself during a Saturday afternoon press conference in which he denied appearing in the photo but admitted to donning blackface on a separate occasion while in college. He has refused to step down despite a near-unanimous consensus among his fellow Democrats that his continued service would harm the commonwealth.

Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, who appeared poised to succeed Northam, was then accused of sexual assault in a Sunday night blog post on Big League Politics, the same outlet that first published Northam’s yearbook photo. Vanessa Tyson, a California politics professor, claims Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him while the pair were in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

In a statement responding to the allegations, Fairfax claimed the interaction was consensual and cited the Washington Post‘srefusal to publish Tyson’s account as evidence of his innocence.

The Virginia Democratic party said in a Tuesday statement that the allegations deserve to be treated with “profound gravity” and vowed to continue to look into Tyson’s claims.

The majority of Democratic lawmakers, however, refused to comment when asked about the allegations on Capitol Hill this week.

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