Virginia Democrats hunker down amid blackface, sex assault scandal
CGTN

Virginia's highest-ranking Republican said on Thursday that he had never worn blackface, as the state's Democratic governor, lieutenant-governor and attorney-general grappled with career-threatening race or sexual assault scandals.

State House Speaker Kirk Cox, who is third in line to be governor, was asked by reporters whether anything in his past might disqualify him from taking over the governor's office in the extraordinary circumstances of all three Democrats resigning.

"I have never appeared in blackface," Cox, 61, said. "As you know, I was a schoolteacher, and that's abhorrent."

Both Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney-General Mark Herring, who is second in line to be governor, have admitted to wearing blackface while in college in the 1980s.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, accompanied by his wife Pamela Northam announces he will not resign during a news conference in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., February 2, 2019. /VCG Photo

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, accompanied by his wife Pamela Northam announces he will not resign during a news conference in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., February 2, 2019. /VCG Photo

With its historic ties to 19th-century U.S. minstrel shows in which white performers would caricature black slaves, blackface is widely seen as racist in modern America, though it remained a trope of popular television shows and movies through the 1980s.

Lieutenant-Governor Justin Fairfax, who would take over the governor's office should Northam step down, is facing allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2004.

Fairfax, 39, who is black, denies this, saying the encounter was consensual.

All three largely avoided the public and news media on Thursday.

Trump weighs in 

Trump, who has batted away a series of scandals involving himself and members of his administration, predicted the turmoil would help flip Virginia back to voting Republican in 2020.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring arrives at an election night rally for Governor Ralph Northam and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, November 7, 2017. /VCG Photo

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring arrives at an election night rally for Governor Ralph Northam and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, November 7, 2017. /VCG Photo

"Democrats at the top are killing the Great State of Virginia," Trump wrote on Twitter early on Thursday. "If the three failing pols were Republicans, far stronger action would be taken."

After calling for Northam's ouster, Attorney-General Herring, 57, apologized on Wednesday for having worn blackface to impersonate a rapper at a 1980 college party.

Pressure on Fairfax intensified when his accuser, a college professor, released a statement alleging he had forced himself on her sexually in a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

That allegation first surfaced on Sunday on the Big League Politics website, which two days earlier had published the photo from Northam's yearbook of a man in blackface standing beside a masked individual dressed in the hooded robe of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan.

Northam, whose term runs through 2022, initially said he was in the photograph, but backtracked a day later. Then he said he had worn blackface on another occasion in the 1980s to impersonate pop star Michael Jackson in a dance competition.

(Cover: Virginia Lieutenant Governor-elect Justin Fairfax speaks at Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam's election night rally on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S., November 7, 2017. /VCG Photo)

Source(s): Reuters