Mark Herring, who's second in line for Virginia governor, admits dressing in blackface at college party 

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

File photo by Scott Elmquist

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

As a 19-year-old at the University of Virginia, Attorney General Mark Herring dressed in brown makeup and wigs to imitate rappers, he said in a statement Wednesday.

Herring is next in line to become governor if both Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax step down. Northam is facing calls to resign over a photo on his medical school yearbook page showing men in a Ku Klux Klan robe and blackface, and Fairfax has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

"I am sure we all have done things at one time or another in our lives that show poor judgment, and worse yet, have caused some level of pain to others,” Herring said in his statement. “I have a glaring example from my past that I have thought about with deep regret in the many years since, and certainly each time I took a step forward in public service, realizing that my goals and this memory could someday collide and cause pain for people I care about, those who stood with me in the many years since, or those who I hoped to serve while in office.”

Herring said “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.”

He added that “the shame of that moment has haunted me for decades, and though my disclosure of it now pains me immensely, what I am feeling in no way compares to the betrayal, the shock, and the deep pain that Virginians of color may be feeling.”

Herring first told the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus about the incident this morning, according to national media outlets. It comes not even a week after the racist photo on Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page surfaced.

At almost exactly the same time, Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax released a statement addressing separate allegations against him alleging that a sexual encounter with a woman at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was an assault.

“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 fifteen years,” Fairfax wrote. “The first indication I had that she felt anything that had happened between us fifteen years ago made her uncomfortable was when I was contacted by a national media organization shortly before my inauguration in 2018.”

At the time of the statement’s release, Farfax was beginning to preside over the day’s Senate session.


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