Scandals surround the Virginian governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general amid cries for their resignations.
This past week has proved calamitous for the higher levels of the state of Virginia’s executive branch. Last Friday, Feb. 1, Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat elected in this last cycle, found himself under fire when a right-wing blog called Big League Politics published his 1984 medical school yearbook page. The page featured a picture of two men, one dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb and the other in blackface. Northam, in the face of intense scrutiny from the media, issued an apologetic statement on the same day for the potential harm he caused with the picture. Northam failed to mention which man he was in the picture.
The next day, however, as calls for his resignation ramped up, Northam came out in a bewildering press conference and denied any involvement with the picture. However, he did confess to dressing in blackface for a Texas dance contest as Michael Jackson. The media backlash soared as Democrats, including the state’s two senators, called for his resignation in favor of Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, a black progressive Democrat.
The situation escalated when Big League Politics then published a sexual assault allegation against the lieutenant governor from a woman who met Fairfax at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. This was corroborated by the Washington Post the next day, accusations which Fairfax later denied.
The woman identified herself as Dr. Vanessa Tyson of Scripps College in California. Fairfax still denied the accusations when she issued a statement describing the events.
Several days later, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring came out and admitted to wearing blackface at an undergraduate party at the University of Virginia in 1980. He gave an apology at a press conference for his actions at the party.
A week from Northam’s photo being released, a second accuser, Meredith Watson, came forward claiming that she had been assaulted by Fairfax when both were students at Duke University in 2000. Fairfax again denied the charges, claiming that an “investigation” would clear him of any of these accusations.
President Trump came out and lambasted the Democrats in Virginia and predicted a “red wave” to take back the state in 2020 after both Northam and Fairfax’s scandals came forward. Notable Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker have all called for Northam and Fairfax’s resignations. Terry McAuliffe, former governor of Virginia and Northam’s mentor, has also now called for Fairfax’s resignation, although he refuses to condemn his mentee. As of this writing, Northam, Fairfax and Herring show no signs of resignation.