By the end of this week, there may be no top politicians left in Virginia.
Attorney General Mark Herring, third in the line of succession to Virginia’s governor’s office, announced Wednesday morning that he “wore blackface at a college party” sometime in the mid-1980s, according to Bloomberg News.
“Another top Virginia Democrat — Attorney General Mark Herring — admitted Wednesday to putting on blackface in the 1980s, when he was a college student,” the outlet reported. “Herring issued a statement saying he wore brown makeup and a wig in 1980 to look like a black rapper during a party as a 19 -year-old undergraduate at the University of Virginia.”
Herring, who is in his second term as Attorney General — and was reportedly planning to run for governor in 2021 — called the incident “ridiculous” in a statement released to media.
“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,” he said in his statement.
“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 continued. “It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”
The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reported early Wednesday that Herring had convened a hasty meeting to discuss “an issue” with the state’s legislative black caucus, leaving reporters to suspect that all three of Virginia’s top legislators were embroiled in trouble. At the time, though, neither Herring nor the legislative black caucus was willing to give details on possible transgressions.
Martin instead tweeted that VA Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, “had a private meeting this morning with the legislative black caucus,” according to a member of the caucus, Del. Lamont Bigby.
Asked if Herring discussed a photo of his own, Bagby said ‘He’ll talk about it,'” Martin added. “Before he could say more, the House min ldr pulled him into a private room.”
NEWS: AG Mark Herring had a private meeting this morning with the legislative black caucus, Del. Lamont Bagby confirms.
Asked if Herring discussed a photo of his own, Bagby said “He’ll talk about it.”
Before he could say more, the House min ldr pulled him into a private room.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 6, 2019
When asked by media to explain what was going on, Bagby said only that, “I imagine we’re not praying enough,” according to The Washington Post. Another legislator added that, “It’s a mess.”
Virginia’s state government has been gripped by scandal since last week, when a photo surfaced of two individuals at a party in the early to mid-1980s, one dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and the other outfitted in minstrel show-style blackface makeup. The photo appeared on Northam’s medical school yearbook page, and, initially, Northam took full responsibility for the picture, though he would not say which of the two individuals he was.
Last Saturday, Northam took back his apology, stating that he was definitively not one of the individuals pictured, but the damage was alerady done. Senior advisors — including Mark Herring — and top Democrats were calling for Northam to step aside and let Lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax take over.
But on Monday, Fairfax himself became the target of scandal, as it was revealed Fairfax was accused of a brutal sexual assault, years prior to entering politics.
Herring was, by all accounts, next in line for Virginia’s top job, according to The Washington Examiner, but it seems Herring now has significant problems of his own.
If Northam, Fairfax, and Herring are all forced to resign — a very unlikely scenario — then the Republican Speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, Kirk Cox, would be thrust into filling the role.