Racism and redemption: Virginia blackface row sparks national debate

Cheryl Sanders
February 11, 2019

King also asked whether he thinks Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, should resign.

"The one thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in both situations I knew at the time, and I know today, that the interactions were consensual", Mr. Fairfax said in a statement.

Beyer also said he believes the two women who have accused Fairfax of sexual assault.

Democratic lawmakers from Virginia have called on Fairfax to resign, as have Democratic senators Kirsten Gillibrand of NY and Cory Booker of New Jersey - both 2020 presidential contenders - among others.

Virginia governor Ralph Northam has come to his final decision: he will not resign from office over allegations he posed in blackface in a yearbook photo from the mid-1980s. "There's no better person to do that then a doctor", Northam told King Sunday morning at the Executive Mansion in his first TV interview. Tyson, a California college professor, alleges that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him at a Boston hotel in 2004.

On Saturday, in the interview with the Washington Post, Northam couldn't explain why he initially took responsibility for the 1984 photo, only to reverse himself within a day - other than to say that he was "shocked" when he first saw it on an iPhone. Fairfax has asked the FBI to investigate the assault claims against him.

Although the Democratic Party has taken nearly a zero-tolerance approach to misconduct among its members in this #MeToo era, a housecleaning in Virginia could be costly to them: If all three Democrats resigned, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.

Ms. Watson also is considering involving police in North Carolina, where the alleged attack took place in 2000 and where there is no statute of limitations for any felony crimes, including rape and sexual assault.

Those rebuttals have not satisfied fellow Democrat Patrick Hope, a state delegate who has promised to introduce articles of impeachment when lawmakers reconvene Monday.

Before leaving for the service in Chilhowie, a small town in the state's rural southwest corner, Northam doubled down on his determination to stay in office, pledging to promote racial reconciliation in the remaining three years of his term.

Increasing the controversy surrounding top Democrats in Virginia further, the state's Attorney General Mark Herring preemptively revealed that he had previously worn black face as a teenager when he dressed as a rapper for a party. If Northam were to step down, Fairfax would be next in line to become governor. "There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity", he said. "I am asking that no one rush to judgment and I am asking for there to be space in this moment for due process". Yet Rep. Bobby Scott did not join the state's six other Democratic U.S. House members in calling for Fairfax's immediate resignation.

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