Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday that he, too, once woreblackface in the 1980s.
Herring released the statement days after the Gov. Ralph Northam admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s for a Michael Jackson dance contest. Leadership on both sides of the aisle have called for Northam’s resignation.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, in line to succeed Northam, has been accused of sexual misconduct that he has vehemently denied. Herring is next in line for the governorship.
Herring, who has urged Northam to resign, made no mention of resignation in his statement.
“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. “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 one-time occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct.”
Northam has said he won’t resign. On Tuesday he resumed governing, signing a $750 million Amazon incentive package and issuing a statement mourning the death of a state trooper.
The Democrat has been under heavy pressure from both parties to bow out. State Sen. Richard Stuart, a close friend, said he talked to Northam on Tuesday and believes the governor wants to remain in office and “face this head-on.”
Members of both parties have acknowledged that, under state laws, removing Northam could be difficult. Northam has been essentially frozen out by fellow Democrats since the photo, depicting one person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe, was published last week on the conservative website Big League Politics.
The site’s editor, Patrick Howley, said he obtained the yearbook photo from someone angered by Northam’s support for expanding abortion rights in the state.
Northam has remained out of the public eye since an awkward press conference Saturday at which he said he won’t resign.
On Tuesday he was governing but made no media appearances.
The trooper was killed late Monday while executing a search warrant during a drug investigation.
“My heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Trooper Lucas Dowell,” Northam said in a statement Tuesday. “We are grateful for his dedication to the safety of our communities, and for all of those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.”
Late Tuesday, Northam signed legislation that clears the path for Seattle-based Amazon to establish an East Coast headquarters outside Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Virginia. The e-commerce giant says it will create 25,000 jobs with an average salary of more than $100,000 per year.
Amazon issued a statement saying it was “excited for what the future holds.” The company says it will invest more than $2 billion in the area.
“This is an investment in the growth of Virginia,” the statement said. “It will help diversify the economy and serve as a catalyst for drawing in other businesses and sought-after jobs.”
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Richard Homan, the president of Northam’s medical school, Eastern Virginia, said Tuesday that other yearbooks had a number of photos that were “shockingly abhorrent” and inappropriate, including as recently as 2013 when he shut the yearbook down. He apologized to the African-American community and reiterated that the school will investigate racial issues – and not only in the past, he said.
“We want to know what is happening, what we can do to make things better,” he said.
Northam has been under siege since the photo emerged. On Friday the governor apologized for being in it. But on Saturday he changed course, saying he doesn’t believe he is in the “offensive, racist photo.”
Northam did admit to blackening his face with shoe polish for a Michael Jackson costume at a dance contest in the 1980s.
Contributing: The Associated Press