Wednesday April 24th, 2019 10:04AM

Clamor for ouster of top Democrats slows in Virginia

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The clamor for the resignation of Virginia's top two politicians seemed to die down Monday, with some black community leaders forgiving Gov. Ralph Northam over the blackface furor and calling for a fair hearing for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax on the sexual assault allegations against him.

Over the past several days, practically the entire Democratic establishment rose up to demand fellow Democrats Northam and Fairfax immediately step down. But the tone changed markedly after the weekend.

A Democratic state lawmaker who had threatened to begin impeachment proceedings against Fairfax, Virginia's highest-ranking black politician, set the idea aside after running into resistance.

At the same time, several black clergy and civic leaders made clear they are willing to give both Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring a second chance, while urging due process for Fairfax. Herring, like Northam, has admitted putting on blackface in the 1980s.

As the scandals engulfing Virginia's top three elected Democrats developed, it became increasingly clear that it could look bad for the party if Fairfax were summarily pushed out and the two white men managed to stay in power.

"The sort of irony that makes your head spin is that Herring and Northam are in trouble for behavior related to Virginia's racial past. And yet it may be the only African-American statewide officeholder who, at the end of the day, gets in trouble," said Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Virginia's Christopher Newport University. "This may get worse and more uncomfortable before it gets better — if it does get better."

If Northam stepped down, Fairfax would become Virginia's second African-American governor in history. If all three Democrats resigned, a Republican could become governor: GOP House Speaker Kirk Cox is next in the line of succession.

Late last week, amid widespread calls for Fairfax's resignation, Democratic Del. Patrick Hope, who is white, announced plans to introduce articles of impeachment against the lieutenant governor on Monday. But Hope relented, citing both reaction from colleagues and online accusations he is a racist.

Hours later, a group of eight black clergy and community leaders said during a news conference that they forgive Northam and want to give him a second chance. Former Richmond City Councilman Henry "Chuck" Richardson called Northam a "good and decent man" who has stood with African-Americans on important issues.

Separately, a set of black leaders listed steps they said Northam and Herring should take to redeem themselves during their remaining three years in office, including removing Confederate statues and raising more money for Virginia's historically black colleges.

"In our opinion, it is not enough for you to simply apologize," the black leaders said in a letter.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus did not withdraw its earlier call for Northam to resign. But its chairman, Del. Lamont Bagby, signaled willingness to work with the governor on issues of importance to black lawmakers.

"My caucus, I can tell you, they're fired up to get this stuff done," Bagby said.

A recent poll found a majority of black Virginians support Northam remaining in office, with Virginians overall split about evenly on the question of whether he should step down. The poll was conducted last Wednesday through Friday by the Washington Post and George Mason University.

Of the three politicians under fire, Herring appeared to be in the least danger of being forced out. Black leaders have said they felt he earnestly apologized.

However, in a sign of the difficulties Fairfax will face in staying on the job, four of his staff members have resigned.

In interviews published Monday, Fairfax repeated denials of sexual assault allegations by Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual crimes, but both women have come forward.

Fairfax said he has never sexually assaulted anyone and deserves a chance to defend himself.

"Everyone deserves to be heard. ... Even when faced with those allegations, I am still standing up for everyone's right to be heard," he told The Washington Post.

Watson has said Fairfax raped her while they were students at Duke University in 2000. Tyson, a California college professor, has accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him at a Boston hotel in 2004.

In an interview broadcast Monday, Northam provided a fuller explanation of his handling of the crisis, set off Feb. 1 by the discovery of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page of someone in blackface standing next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam initially said he was in the photo, then denied it a day later, while admitting he wore blackface to a dance contest that same year.

Northam, 59, told "CBS This Morning" that he mistakenly took responsibility for the picture because had never seen the image before. Northam, who worked as a pediatric neurologist before entering politics when he was nearly 50, said: "When you're in a state of shock like I was, we don't always think as clearly as we should."


Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia. Contributing to this report were AP National Writer Errin Haines Whack in Richmond and Associated Press reporters Denise Lavoie in Richmond; David McFadden in Baltimore; and Julie Pace and Michael Biesecker in Washington.

  • 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, AP Business
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Prosecutors seek new sentence in Laquan McDonald case
Prosecutors on Monday asked Illinois' highest court to review the less than seven year prison sentence for the white Chicago police officer who was in the shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald
2:15PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Clamor for ouster of top Democrats slows in Virginia
After days of clamoring for resignations or impeachment, Virginia Democratic political and community leaders seem to be having second thoughts
2:13PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Hulu making Howard the Duck and 4 more Marvel animated shows
The streaming service Hulu agrees with Marvel to create four animated series based on comic book characters including Howard the Duck
2:12PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Speaker Pelosi admonishes freshman Omar over Israel tweet
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday insisted that freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar immediately apologize for tweets saying that members of Congress are being paid by a powerful interest group to support Israel
1:46PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Pompeo warns of risks to US cooperation over Huawei
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that America might be forced to scale back certain operations in Europe and elsewhere if countries continue to do business with the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei
1:43PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Iranians mark anniversary of victory day in 1979 revolution
Crowds of Iranians pour out onto Tehran streets, marking victory day in the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution
1:41PM ( 41 minutes ago )
AP National News
Bahrain refugee soccer player freed by Thailand, heads home
A refugee soccer player has left Thailand on a flight to Australia after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain in a case that has drawn worldwide attention
1:03PM ( 1 hour ago )
Public honors late John Dingell, longest-serving congressman
Dozens of John Dingell's former constituents lined up to pay their respects to the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, passing his flag-covered coffin in suburban Detroit and offering condolences to his wife and family
12:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Fairfax says he's been able to do his job
Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax says he has been able to focus on his official duties despite sexual assault allegations against him by two women
12:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
House chairman issues warning after provocative tweet
A powerful House chairman is sending a warning that foreign policy discussions and not anti-Semitism is the standard for members of his committee
1:03PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: UK, 3 non-EU nations ink ex-pat residency deal
The British government has agreed to allow citizens of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein already living in Britain to remain after Brexit even if the country leaves the European Union without a deal
12:32PM ( 1 hour ago )
New Pentagon chief makes global debut with status uncertain
At an extraordinary moment in Pentagon history, Pat Shanahan, a former business chief with little political stature and no military experience, is making his international debut as the acting U.S. secretary of defense
11:49AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
European expert: Hungary backslides on women, refugee rights
The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner says Hungary is facing "many interconnected human rights challenges," including legislation targeting civic groups, backsliding in women's rights and the systematic detention of asylum seekers
9:26AM ( 4 hours ago )
Budget talks resuming amid pessimism over border differences
Budget negotiators will meet Monday to revive talks over border security issues that are central to legislation to prevent key parts of the government from shutting down on Saturday
9:26AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Northam 'indentured servant' remark challenged
Historians say Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrongly used the term "indentured servants" when referring the first Africans to arrive in Virginia
9:20AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Prosecutors seek new sentence in Laquan McDonald case
Prosecutors on Monday asked Illinois' highest court to review the less than seven year prison sentence for the white Chicago police officer who was in the shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald
2:15PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Hulu making Howard the Duck and 4 more Marvel animated shows
The streaming service Hulu agrees with Marvel to create four animated series based on comic book characters including Howard the Duck
2:12PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Dapper Dan seeks accountability amid calls for Gucci boycott
Fashion collaborator Daniel "Dapper Dan" Day is seeking accountability as other celebrities call for boycotts of Gucci after the fashion house apologized for producing a sweater that was compared to blackface
2:00PM ( 23 minutes ago )
The Latest: Black leaders say they forgive Northam
Some black clergy and community leaders say they forgive Gov. Ralph Northam for wearing blackface three decades ago and want to give him a second chance
1:59PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Cyprus, Egypt, Greece say gas search in sea won't be stopped
The speaker of Egypt's parliament appeared to push back at Turkey's opposition to drilling operations off Cyprus, saying cooperation between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece sends a message to countries that try to stop them
1:55PM ( 27 minutes ago )