Feb. 6 (UPI) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Wednesday apologized for wearing blackface to attend a college party in 1980, becoming the third elected official from the state to be embroiled in scandal in less than a week.
Herring revealed he darkened his skin to dress as a rapper when he was an undergraduate student.
“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. 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,” Herring said in a lengthy statement posted to social media.
Herring said he has “deep regret” for his actions and realized it has caused pain for others.
“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,” he said. “It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”
The admission came less than a week after a conservative website, Big League Politics, posted an image of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook showing a photo of two unidentifiable people dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and blackface.
The photo appeared on a yearbook page apparently dedicated entirely to Northam, who admitted he was in the photo Friday before doing an about-face Saturday and denying he was in the picture. He said he did darken his skin, though, when he attended a party dressed as Michael Jackson.
Northam has faced dozens of calls for his resignation from both Republicans and Democrats, including from Herring.
Herring met Wednesday morning with members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which said it plans to release a full statement. The group spoke out against Northam on Friday, calling the photo “disgusting, reprehensible and offensive.”
Should Northam resign, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would lead the state, but this week he faced his own scandal after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. He denied the allegation and said he had a “consensual encounter” with the accuser, Vanessa Tyson.
“While this allegation has been both surprising and hurtful, I also recognize that no one makes charges of this kind lightly, and I take it and this situation very seriously,” he said in a statement released Wednesday.
Tyson released a statement Wednesday through Washington, D.C., law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks, offering details of the alleged assault. She said she wanted to “set the record straight” and accused Fairfax of branding her as a liar.
She said that “what began as consensual kissing quickly turned into sexual assault,” adding that Fairfax allegedly forced her to perform a sexual act on him.
“After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame,” Tyson wrote, saying that she didn’t speak about it — or to Fairfax — for years.
She said she felt compelled to take her allegations public after it became clear Fairfax could become governor if Northam resigned over the blackface photo.