Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface during college in a statement released Wednesday, adding to the turmoil already enveloping Democratic state officials.
Herring graduated from the T.C. Williams School of Law in 1990 and was an undergraduate at 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,” Herring said in a statement. “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 experience and perspective of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”
In the statement, Herring referred to the incident as a “one time occurrence,” assumed full responsibility for the act and affirmed that it was not reflective of the man he was today.
“As senator and attorney general, I have felt an obligation to not just acknowledge but work affirmatively to address the racial inequalities and systemic racism that we know exist in our criminal justice system, in our election processes, and in other institutions of power,” he said.
Herring’s disclosure comes after he had urged Gov. Ralph Northam to resign when an old yearbook picture surfaced last Friday showing a person dressed in blackface standing next to someone dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member. Northam admitted on Friday to being one of the people in the picture, but backtracked his statement at a news conference Saturday and refused to resign.
If Northam were to resign, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would assume the governorship. But Fairfax himself is under scrutiny after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He vehemently denied the accusation Monday, suggesting it was part of a political smear campaign.
Fairfax faced more heat after sources told NBC that he said, “F—- that b—-,” referring to to the woman, during a private meeting with his staff. Fairfax has denied these claims.
Should the three Democrats -- Northam, Fairfax and Herring -- all resign, the next in line for the governorship is Republican Kirk Cox, speaker of the House of Delegates.
This story originally ran on the Capital News Service. Stephanie Hagan, Joshua Kim and Melanie Lippert contributed reporting.