sunny.png
Wednesday June 26th, 2019 12:10PM

Crisis escalates in Virginia; top 3 Democrats under fire

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The political crisis in Virginia spun out of control Wednesday when the state's attorney general confessed to putting on blackface in the 1980s and a woman went public with detailed allegations of sexual assault against the lieutenant governor.

With Gov. Ralph Northam's career already hanging by a thread over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, the day's developments threatened to take down all three of Virginia's top elected officials, all of them Democrats.

The twin blows began with Attorney General Mark Herring issuing a statement admitting he wore brown makeup and a wig in 1980 to look like a rapper during a party when he was a 19-year-old student at the University of Virginia.

Herring — who had previously called on Northam to resign and was planning to run for governor himself in 2021 — apologized for his "callous" behavior and said that the days ahead "will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve."

The 57-year-old Herring came clean after rumors about the existence of a blackface photo of him began circulating at the Capitol, though he made no mention of a picture Wednesday.

Then, within hours, Vanessa Tyson, the California woman whose sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax surfaced earlier this week, put out a detailed statement saying Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him in a hotel room in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The Associated Press typically does not identify those who say they were sexually assaulted, but Tyson issued the statement in her name.

Tyson, a 42-year-old political scientist who is on a fellowship at Stanford University and specializes in the political discourse of sexual assault, said, "I have no political motive. I am a proud Democrat."

"Mr. Fairfax has tried to brand me as a liar to a national audience, in service to his political ambitions, and has threatened litigation," she said. "Given his false assertions, I'm compelled to make clear what happened."

Fairfax — who is in line to become governor if Northam resigns — has repeatedly denied her allegations, saying that the encounter was consensual and that he is the victim of a strategically timed political smear.

"At no time did she express to me any discomfort or concern about our interactions, neither during that encounter, nor during the months following it, when she stayed in touch with me, nor the past 15 years," he said in a statement.

Tyson said she suffered "deep humiliation and shame" and stayed quiet about the allegations as she pursued her career, but by late 2017, as the #MeToo movement took shape and after she saw a news article about Fairfax's campaign, she took her story to The Washington Post, which decided months later not to publish a story.

The National Organization for Women immediately called on Fairfax to resign, saying, "Her story is horrifying, compelling and clear as day — and we believe her."

The string of scandals that began when the yearbook picture came to light last Friday could have a domino effect on Virginia state government: If Northam and Fairfax fall, Herring would be next in line to become governor. After Herring comes House Speaker Kirk Cox, a conservative Republican.

At the Capitol, lawmakers were dumbstruck over the day's fast-breaking developments, with Democratic Sen. Barbara Favola saying, "I have to take a breath and think about this. This is moving way too quickly." GOP House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert said it would be "reckless" to comment. "There's just too much flying around," he said.

The chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Del. Lamont Bagby, said, "We've got a lot to digest."

Democrats have expressed fear that the uproar over the governor could jeopardize their chances of taking control of the GOP-dominated Virginia legislature this year. The party made big gains in 2017, in part because of a backlash against President Donald Trump, and has moved to within striking distance of a majority in both houses.

At the same time, the Democrats nationally have taken a hard line against misconduct in their ranks because women and minorities are a vital part of their base and because they want to be able to criticize Trump's behavior without looking hypocritical.

Northam has come under pressure from nearly the entire Democratic establishment to resign after the discovery of a photo on his profile page in the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook of someone in blackface standing next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

The governor admitted at first that he was in the photo without saying which costume he was wearing, then denied it a day later. But he acknowledged he once used shoe polish to blacken his face and look like Michael Jackson at a dance contest in Texas in 1984, when he was in the Army.

Herring came down hard on Northam when the yearbook photo surfaced, condemning it as "indefensible," ''profoundly offensive" and "shocking and deeply disappointing." He said it was no longer possible for Northam to lead the state.

On Wednesday, though, Herring confessed that he and two friends dressed up to look like rappers they listened to, including Kurtis Blow, admitting: "It sounds ridiculous even now writing it." He said he was "deeply, deeply sorry."

"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. But he added: "This conduct is in no way reflective of the man I have become in the nearly 40 years since."

Herring, who was elected to his second four-year term in 2017, made a name for himself nationally by playing a central role in bringing gay marriage to Virginia.

When he first took office, he announced he would no longer defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage, saying it was time for Virginia "to be on the right side of history."

A federal judge overturned the ban, citing Herring's opposition, and Virginia began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2014, nearly a full year before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide.

___

Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump introduces World Bank critic David Malpass to lead it
Trump introduces Treasury official Malpass as his choice to lead the World Bank
3:38PM ( 2 minutes ago )
Spotify takes a big jump into the podcasting game
Spotify is making a bigger bet on podcasts as it looks to bring a Netflix-like model of original programs to the audio world
3:37PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Crisis escalates in Virginia; top 3 Democrats under fire
The political crisis in Virginia has exploded: The state's attorney general has confessed to putting on blackface in the 1980s and a woman has gone public with detailed allegations of sexual assault against the lieutenant governor
3:32PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US says it won't cede leadership of IS fight despite pullout
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says American won't cede leadership of the fight against the Islamic State group
2:59PM ( 41 minutes ago )
United courts the well-heeled with more premium seats
United Airlines plans to retrofit many planes and add premium seats in a bid to win over high-fare passengers
2:58PM ( 41 minutes ago )
2018 was 4th warmest, but next 5 years could break records
Four weather agencies say 2018 was the fourth-warmest on record, but meteorologists say it's only going to get hotter
2:51PM ( 48 minutes ago )
AP National News
Arizona city officials decry new razor wire on border wall
Elected officials in an Arizona border city are decrying the installation of razor wire that now covers a tall border wall through downtown
2:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
Freezing rain causes power outages, ices Midwest roads
Freezing rain creates dangerous roads, cuts power to thousands of homes and businesses in Midwest
2:02PM ( 1 hour ago )
Arizona city officials decry new razor wire on border fence
Elected officials in an Arizona border city are decrying the installation of razor fencing that now covers a tall border fence through downtown.
1:50PM ( 1 hour ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Trump taps World Bank critic David Malpass to lead it
President Donald Trump says top Treasury Department official David Malpass is his choice to lead the World Bank
2:37PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Trump says House intel probe has no basis
President Donald Trump is lashing out at Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee
2:22PM ( 1 hour ago )
Democrats unbowed by Trump's words push investigations
Democrats are charging ahead with their plans to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns, business and ties to Russia, unbowed by his denouncement of "ridiculous partisan investigations."
2:05PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Dutch say no-deal Brexit could hit 50 medicines
Dutch health authorities say that the supply of some 50 medicines used to treat life-threatening illnesses could be jeopardized if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.
11:36AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: House panel backs sending transcripts to Mueller
The House Intelligence Committee has voted to send more than 50 interview transcripts from its now-closed Russia investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller
11:31AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Ratings agency warns of potential UK downgrades
Standard & Poor's has warned it could downgrade its credit ratings for Britain and an array of companies if the country crashes out of the European Union next month without a deal
11:24AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Army aims for more combat-ready troops with new fitness test
The Army is developing a new, more grueling and complex fitness exam that adds dead lifts, power throws and other exercises designed to make soldiers more fit and ready for combat
3:31PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Venezuela military barricades bridge in attempt to block aid
The Venezuelan military has barricaded a bridge at a key border crossing, issuing a challenge on Wednesday to a U.S.-backed effort by the opposition to bring humanitarian aid into the troubled nation
3:18PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Istanbul building collapse kills 2; rescuers save 6 others
An eight-story building has collapsed in Istanbul, killing at least two people but rescuers were able to pull six people out of the rubble alive
3:13PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Romania detains Italian man who posed as plastic surgeon
Romanian police have detained an Italian man who allegedly posed as a plastic surgeon in clinics around Bucharest
3:05PM ( 35 minutes ago )
US says it won't cede leadership of IS fight despite pullout
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says American won't cede leadership of the fight against the Islamic State group
2:59PM ( 41 minutes ago )