In case you haven't been following the news closely, you might have missed the ongoing scandal happening within Virginia over the past week. Sometimes, it can be hard to stay up to date on what's happening across the country, but this story can't be ignored. So, what's happening in Virginia? Buckle up, because this scandal is all over the place.
Basically, the three highest profile Democratic leaders in Virginia are all currently enmeshed in scandal involving perceived racism or allegations of sexual assault. It started on Feb. 1, when The Virginia-Pilot posted a photo on Twitter that was allegedly of Gov. Ralph Northam in a photo of someone wearing blackface makeup and posing beside another person in a Ku Klux Klan costume. The photo was featured in Northam's section of the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. Even though it at first was unclear whether Northam was one of the men in the photo, and if so which "costume" he was wearing, Northam's office released a statement that same day confirming Northam was one of the people in the photo and apologizing.
The statement read in part,
Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive. I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. ... I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.
Since the photo surfaced, many have demanded that Northam, who was elected governor in 2017, step down from his position. However, on Feb. 2, Northam withdrew his initial apology for the photo and stated that he refuses to resign as governor because "he's not the person in that photo." OK, talk about a whole 180. He said,
I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe. The photo appears with others I submitted on a page with my name on it... In the hours since I made my statement yesterday, I reflected with my family and classmates from the time and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo.
Even though Northam claims he's not either of those individuals in the photo, he did admit during a press conference that same day that he had worn blackface in the 1980s while dressed up as Michael Jackson. Truthfully, my head is spinning from all of this.
As of Thursday, Feb. 7, Northam still has not resigned, and it doesn't look like he has any plans to. Despite his denial, the likes of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have asked for Northam's resignation as well as many members of the public. Elite Daily reached out to Northam's team for comment on withdrawing his initial statement and whether he has plans to resign, but did not hear back in time for publication.
Believe it or not, Northam isn't the only prominent Virginia politician to admit to wearing blackface in the 80s in recent days. On Feb. 6, state Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface while trying to dress up as a rapper during a party while attending the University of Virginia. Ironically enough, Herring is one of the politicians who had previously said that Northam should resign for his controversial photo, so the fact that Herring himself has also been accused of the same behavior is... awkward timing. Elite Daily reached out to Herring for comment about him wearing blackface, and whether he plans to resign, but did not hear back in time for publication. In a statement shared via his Twitter account, Herring apologized and said that he accepted full responsibility and was ashamed of his teenage actions.
"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 wrote.
But wait, because there's more. In addition to the controversy surrounding Northam, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who could become the next governor of Virginia if Northam resigns, is currently facing a sexual assault allegation from Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a politics professor who claims she was allegedly assaulted by Fairfax in 2004. Since these allegations surfaced, Fairfax has repeatedly denied any assault and stated that the encounter was entirely consensual. Elite Daily reached out to Fairfax's team for comment about the allegation but did not hear back in time for publication.
In a Feb. 4 statement shared via Twitter, Fairfax called the claims "unsubstantiated" and said that he planned to take legal action. The statement read in part,
Only now, at a time of intense media attention surrounding Virginia politics, has this false claim been raised again. This is part of the sad and dark of politics that the Lt. Governor has dedicated himself to helping Virginia and the nation rise above. The Lt. Governor will take appropriate legal action against those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation.
A subsequent statement on Feb. 6 reiterated his stance that the encounter was consensual.
So that's the rundown. Safe to say, there's a lot happening in Virginia right now. When it rains, it pours, I guess.