The Slatest

Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Reportedly Called His Accuser a “Bitch,” and Its Attorney General Also Wore Blackface

Herring and Fairfax greet each other in what looks like a school hallway or gymnasium.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax in Richmond on Nov. 6, 2017.
Julia Rendleman/Reuters

Last Friday, a copy of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page began circulating; on the page, a photo depicts one man dressed in blackface and another as a member of the KKK. Northam has denied (in confusing fashion) that he is in the photo, but has nonetheless been urged to resign by seemingly every other elected official in Virginia of either party. His successor would be Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax—but he, too, has a potentially disqualifying past, having been accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He denies the charges, but now faces a new report from NBC that he referred to his accuser as a “bitch” in a Monday meeting:

Fairfax’s chief of staff has denied that report, too; we’ll see if a more detailed account of the context of the alleged profanity emerges. Meanwhile, the person who is second in line for the governorship, state Attorney General Mark Herring, just admitted that he too dressed in blackface at a party in the 1980s.* From a statement issued by Herring, who went to the University of Virginia:

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. 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 next person after Herring in line for the governorship would be the speaker of the House of Delegates, who is a Republican; rather than let a Republican take over, Democrats would presumably do something like having Fairfax resign, after which Northam would appoint a new lieutenant governor with a clean record, after which Northam would then resign too, and the new lieutenant governor would take the top spot. (This is how Gerald Ford ended up as president of the U.S., except with corruption instead of racist makeup.) Of course, then, given the way this story has gone, the hypothetical new lieutenant governor would probably turn out to have recently written on Facebook that “Hitler had some good ideas too,” or whatever. Virginia!

Correction, Feb. 6, 2019: This post originally misstated that Herring would be third in line for the governorship. He is second in line.