The Latest: Virginia senators, congressmen address scandals
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Latest on the racial and sexual assault allegations that have engulfed Virginia’s top three elected officials, all Democrats (all times local):
Virginia’s two U.S. senators and seven Democratic congressmen have released a joint statement responding to the scandals that have engulfed the state’s top three elected officials.
Similar to a recently released statement from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the senators and congressmen do not call for the immediate resignations of either Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax or Attorney General Mark Herring.
In the Thursday night statement, the Democrats say they want an investigation into a sexual assault allegation levied against Fairfax.
They also say they are “shocked and saddened” to learn that Herring wore blackface when he was in college. The congressmen say Herring has expressed “deep remorse” and must continue to have “in-depth discussions” if he is to regain the public’s trust.
The statement says “We have each publicly called for Governor Northam to resign.”
Black Virginia lawmakers have reiterated their call for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign, but stopped short of calling for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax or Attorney General Mark Herring to step down.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement Thursday night saying that a sexual assault allegation against Fairfax must be “thoroughly investigated.”
The lawmakers say they stand by their earlier call for Northam to resign over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook that featured someone in blackface and another person in Klan robes.
Days after the Northam scandal broke, Herring admitted that he had worn blackface in college. The caucus says it appreciates the attorney general’s honesty but is waiting for him to act further to “reassure” the state that he is fit to lead.
Several top Democratic female lawmakers in Virginia are declining to comment on an allegation of sexual assault that a woman has made against the state’s lieutenant governor.
House Minority Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn said Thursday that she was too busy to discuss which of the two conflicting versions of events she believes. She says there will be “more time to listen” after the legislative session.
The woman who made the allegation says Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 in Massachusetts. Fairfax denies assaulting her. He says they had a consensual encounter.
Sen. Barbara Favola said “it’s still a he-said, she-said,” and suggested an investigation should be done in Massachusetts.
Del. Vivian Watts says she’s not in a position to say whether the allegations are true, but believes there should be a legal review.
A top Virginia Republican served as an editor for a college yearbook that includes racial slurs and at least one image of a person in blackface.
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment was managing editor of the 1968 yearbook for the Virginia Military Institute.
The yearbook includes a photo of a man in blackface standing with others in costumes and uses racial slurs to describe a student from Bangkok, Thailand.
The contents of the yearbook were first reported Thursday by The Virginian Pilot.
In a statement, Norment condemned the use of blackface. He said he was one of seven people who worked on the yearbook and “cannot endorse or associate” himself with everything in it.
Norment says he isn’t featured in nor did he take any of the photos in question.
The Rev. Al Sharpton has called on Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring to resign over their admission that they wore blackface in the 1980s.
In a fiery speech delivered Thursday at Virginia Union University, Sharpton said of Northam: “I’m not going to be your minstrel!”
Sharpton spoke to a crowd of about 300 students, faculty, clergy and political leaders at the historically black college.
Northam admitted to wearing blackface at a dance party in 1984. On Wednesday, Herring acknowledged that he too had worn blackface to look like a rapper during a college party in 1980. Sharpton noted that blackface has always been demeaning to African-Americans, “mocking us, making us minstrels!”
Members of the crowd shouted in agreement and jumped to their feet several times during Sharpton’s speech.
A Republican who previously ran for statewide office against Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he believes the revelations against the Democrat are “divine retribution.”
Several Republicans have called for Northam to resign after the discovery last week of a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page.
E.W. Jackson lost the lieutenant governor’s race to Northam in 2013. He says Northam angered many voters by supporting a bill that would loosen some abortion restrictions. Jackson, who is black, says he believes the public revelation of the photo and the resulting fallout is “God sort of revealing what’s really going on behind the scenes.”
In a tweet Wednesday night, Jerry Falwell Jr. blamed the current crisis on voters in the state’s left-leaning Washington, D.C., suburbs who voted for Democrats. Falwell is a Christian conservative who leads Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Democratic politicians are now waiting on the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to respond to the latest developments threatening to bring down the state’s top three elected officials.
The caucus quickly condemned Gov. Ralph Northam and called on him to resign after the revelation that a photo of two men in blackface and KKK costumes was published on his 1984 yearbook page.
But the group has been silent so far since Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago, a charge he denies. The next official in line to replace a governor, Attorney General Mark Herring, also admitted that when he was a teenager, he once wore blackface to a party.
The black lawmakers said they were working on a statement.
(This item has been edited to correct that the yearbook photo appeared in 1984, not 1985)