Blackface controversy throws Virginia into chaos

Virginia’s leadership crisis took an absurd turn Wednesday when the man who is second in line to become governor admitted he has worn blackface — even as Gov. Ralph Northam’s job is already on the line for the same thing and the man who is first in line to replace him is embroiled in a sex scandal.

The disastrous domino effect has now thrust the Republican state House speaker into the spotlight as the third in line for the top job — a man who only scored his post in a coin-toss election.

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring on Wednesday issued a stunning statement admitting he wore brown makeup and a wig in 1980 to dress up as a black rapper when he was a University of Virginia student.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song. It sounds ridiculous even now writing it,” Herring said.

“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.”

The admission by the second in line to take over the statehouse came just days after he trashed Northam for much the same thing, declaring, “It is no longer possible for Gov. Northam to lead our commonwealth, and it is time for him to step down.”

Herring, who now claims his own blackface shame “has haunted me for decades,” did not offer to resign, saying instead that, “In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general.”

“No matter where we go from here, I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation,” he continued.

Questions over the state’s leadership first arose last week over a photo on Northam’s page in his medical school yearbook showing a man in blackface and another in KKK garb — and the next in line for his job, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, was then hit with sex assault allegations.

Northam has denied he is either of the men in the racist image and suggested it was placed on the page due to an editorial mixup — but in doing so he claimed to have once put on blackface to mimic Michael Jackson.

A staffer from the yearbook, however, has come forward to insist the photos “were chosen by the individual student.”

“Anything is possible, but the probability is low unless someone was out to get him and was able to get access to all this stuff,” the yearbook’s page designer, Dr. William Elwood, told CNN Tuesday.

“All of this stuff was kept in a locked room, and the only time the room was unlocked was when somebody was in that room working on the yearbook.”

Adding to the succession shambles, the third in line for the Virginia governorship if Northam, Fairfax and Herring all step down is state House Speaker Kirk Cox — a Republican, whose party gained its one-seat control of the Virginia House of Delegates by sheer chance in 2017.



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