Just one month ago, there was widespread demand for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign for having worn blackface. But now that storm seems to have passed, with Democrats backpedaling on their initial outrage.
Virginia’s Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, who is engulfed in his own blackface controversy, appears to have joined the bandwagon of politicians who are no longer demanding that Northam step down from office. Although he at first called for Northam’s resignation, Herring declined to say whether he still feels that way and even weighed in on Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s sexual assault scandal during an interview on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show.
“The governor has made up his mind. He’s decided that he is going to continue on and is doing what he thinks he needs to do,” Herring said of Northam.
When asked directly whether he’s suggesting that Northam should continue in office since he has refused to step down, Herring again declined to answer.
On Feb. 1, 59-year-old Northam apologized for appearing in a photograph of a person dressed in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan robe from his 1984 medical school yearbook. One day later, at a bizarre press conference, the governor denied that he was one of those people in the picture but admitted to applying black shoe polish to his face for a Michael Jackson dance competition.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who was one of Northam’s early critics, is now talking about giving the governor a second chance.
“If the governor is going to continue to stay, what he needs to do is get out and start to try to re-earn the trust of Virginians. When I called for his resignation along with [Sen.] Tim Kaine, we said the governor had lost the faith of the people of Virginia. He has a right to try to regain that faith,” Warner said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
It even appeared most Virginians have already forgiven Northam. Shortly after news of his blackface exploded, dozens of protesters assembled near the governor’s mansion in Richmond to demand his resignation. Today, there’s hardly a peep out of them.
If a recent poll is accurate, Black Virginians are more willing than white residents are to forgive Northam. The Washington Post-Schar School poll that was released on Feb. 9 found that Virginia residents overall are split at 47 percent each on whether Northam should resign. However, 58 percent of Black Virginians want the governor to stay in office, compared with 37 percent of whites share their view.
Herring, who reportedly has aspirations of running for governor, admitted on Feb. 6 that he, too, wore blackface while in college. His confession came after the first of two women accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. While softening his rhetoric on Northam, Herring was more definitive about the allegations Fairfax was facing.
“I think all parties want some type of impartial investigation. I think that’s what should happen,” Herring said.