Virginia AG Herring Says He Wore Blackface at UVA Party
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is admitting that he also engaged in blackface while a student, just like Governor Ralph Northam.
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is admitting that he also engaged in blackface while a student, just like Governor Ralph Northam.
Herring released a statement Wednesday, February 6, that he had worn brown makeup to imitate a rapper for a party at the University of Virginia in 1980. He was 19 years old at the time of the incident.
Herring said ignorance and glib attitudes contributed to the racist incident, adding he did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others.
"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," the attorney general said in his statement.
The 57-year-old Democrat went public after rumors of a blackface photo of him had circulated, however Herring made no mention of this in his statement.
He is also stepping down as co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association to "focus on his responsibilities here in Virginia," according to a spokesperson.
The chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Delegate Lamont Bagby, said its members need time to process the news about the attorney general: "We've got a lot to digest."
Herring has called for Gov. Northam's resignation after the recent discovery of a racist photo on his 1984 yearbook profile page.
Northam admitted at first that he was in the photo showing a person in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe, but did not specify which costume he was wearing. He later denied he was in the picture, but acknowledged he once used shoe polish to blacken his face at a dance contest in Texas that same year.
Herring is second in line of succession should Northam resign from office. However the first person in line, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, is also facing controversy. A woman is accusing the Democrat of sexually assaulting her back in 2004.
Lt. Gov. Fairfax is denying the woman’s allegation, claiming their encounter consensual.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who also served as governor of Virginia, told reporters the commonwealth needs to unite.
"I'm shocked and disappointed. I'm still processing it. I have not even had a chance to review his statements”, said the Democrat. “This is obviously an extraordinary challenging week for all Virginians.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
02/06/2019 Release from the Office of Attorney General Mark Herring:
RICHMOND (February 6, 2019) – Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring today released the following statement:
"The very bright light that is shining on Virginia right now is sparking a painful but, I think we all hope, important conversation. The stakes are high, and our spirits are low.
"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. 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.
"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.
"This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct.
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. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.
"Although 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. Where they have deserved to feel heard, respected, understood, and honestly represented, I fear my actions have contributed to them being forced to revisit and feel a historical pain that has never been allowed to become history.
"This conduct is in no way reflective of the man I have become in the nearly 40 years since.
"As a senator and as attorney general, I have felt an obligation to not just acknowledge but work affirmatively to address the racial inequities and systemic racism that we know exist in our criminal justice system, in our election processes, and in other institutions of power. I have long supported efforts to empower communities of color by fighting for access to healthcare, making it easier and simpler to vote, and twice defended the historic re-enfranchisement of former felons before the Supreme Court of Virginia. I have launched efforts to make our criminal justice system more just, fair, and equal by addressing implicit bias in law enforcement, establishing Virginia’s first-ever program to improve re-entry programs in local jails, and pushing efforts to reform the use of cash bail. And I have tried to combat the rise in hate crimes and white supremacist violence that is plaguing our Commonwealth and our country.
"That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt. Forgiveness in instances like these is a complicated process, one that necessarily cannot and should not be decided by anyone but those directly affected by the transgressor, should forgiveness be possible or appropriate at all. In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general, but 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."
Press Release from House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox:
Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox issued the following statement on Wednesday.
“The last seven days have been tumultuous for our Commonwealth. The revelations against and admissions by the leaders of the executive branch are disturbing.
“The allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Governor Fairfax are extremely serious. The Lt. Governor, the alleged victim, and Virginians all deserve a full airing of the facts.
“The belated admission from Attorney General Herring is shocking. He should adhere to the standard he has set for others or he loses credibility.
“These current controversies will be resolved in due course. In the meantime, we will continue our work on the budget and the hundreds of bills remaining before us. The General Assembly will steadily continue with the business of governing on behalf of Virginia’s 8.4 million citizens.
“The people should be confident that our work continues unimpeded and that the Commonwealth’s 100,000 state employees also continue to serve without disruption.
“Our diverse Commonwealth has been deeply shaken by these developments, but nonetheless remains economically vibrant, fiscally sound, safe and secure.
“We have weathered the storms of four centuries and will weather this one as well. We continue to pray for Virginia during this difficult time.”
Press Release from Republican Party of Virginia:
Richmond, VA - RPV Chairman Jack Wilson issued the following statement today in reaction to AG Mark Herring's statement:
"The Republican Party of Virginia calls on Mark Herring to resign his post as Attorney General. Like we have had to say too many times this week, racism has no place in Virginia and dressing up in blackface is wholly unacceptable."
"In response to the photograph in Governor Ralph Northam’s yearbook, Herring, in calling for the Governor’s resignation, said 'It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our Commonwealth and it is time for him to step down.'"
"In Herring's own statement, he said 'It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.'"
"As we renew our call for Governor Northam's resignation, we must regretfully add Mark Herring's name to the list of Democratic elected officials that have lost the trust of the people of Virginia and have lost the moral authority to govern."
Press Release from University of Virginia:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Feb. 6, 2019 – The University of Virginia issued the following statement today.
“Dressing in blackface is racist and offensive. This latest revelation underscores how important it is to continue honest conversations about our past, whether distant or not-so-distant, and how that past continues to influence our present. Those conversations have been occurring at UVA for a number of years, and they will continue.
“UVA has examined its earliest days through the President’s Commission and Slavery and the University, which issued its report in 2018. We recently launched the President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation, which will focus on the time period after the Civil War and through the Civil Rights era. But our work will not end there, and in many ways this work — to fully understand our past and to ensure that our community is one of mutual dignity and equal respect — will never be finished. Universities are places dedicated to discovering and disseminating the truth, and it is in that spirt that we should examine our own past — including the past documented in University publications — and our present. It’s only through that candid assessment that we will be able to close the gap between our aspirations and our realities.
“That said, we do not need a commission or a study to make the basic point that dressing in blackface is wrong. Nor should we shy away from the responsibility of ensuring that our current students understand the painful history of blackface and other forms of cultural appropriation or disrespect.”