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Virginia attorney general admits to wearing blackface

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 2/06/19, 01:40 pm

The political crisis in Virginia worsened Wednesday when state Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he once wore blackface to a party in college. Herring is second in line for the governorship behind Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who was recently accused of sexual assault, and embattled Gov. Ralph Northam. All three are Democrats.

Virginia’s political leadership began imploding last week when Northam made comments about a late-term abortion bill that failed in the state legislature. In a radio interview, he described a hypothetical situation in which an infant who was severely deformed or unable to survive after birth could be left to die. A person who was angered by those remarks tipped off the website Big League Politics about a racist photo from Northam’s personal page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. State and national Democrats have called for Northam’s resignation, but he said he planned to remain in office as long as he could.

The scandal involving Fairfax, who would succeed Northam if he left office, erupted Sunday when Big League Politics reported a woman had accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax has said repeatedly the encounter was consensual. The Virginia Democratic Party issued a statement Tuesday saying, “All allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity. We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax.” The woman reportedly has retained the law firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford, who testified at Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and accused him of sexually assaulting her in high school. Kavanaugh denied the claim and was confirmed by the Senate.

Now Herring, third in line for the governorship, is in the hot seat after confirming rumors that he wore blackface in college. He acknowledged Wednesday that he and two friends dressed up to look like rappers they listened to for a party at the University of Virginia when he was a 19-year-old student there in 1980. Herring, who planned to run for governor in 2021, apologized and said, “This conduct is in no way reflective of the man I have become in the nearly 40 years since.”

The rules of succession in the Virginia Constitution say the speaker of the House, Republican Kirk Cox, would become governor if Northam, Fairfax, and Herring all resigned. But that would only happen if all three offices were vacant at once. State law provides for other scenarios in which one or more of the offices are empty, but uncertainty about how those provisions would work would likely lead to court challenges.


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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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