News & Politics

Virginia AG Confesses to Wearing Blackface in 1980

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring celebrates his re-election with supporters at the Northam For Governor election night party at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Herring won a second term as Virginia's attorney general Tuesday, beating back a challenge from Republican John Adams. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

On Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Va.) — also a candidate for governor in 2021 — admitted to having worn blackface at a party in 1980. Ironically, Herring has called on Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) to resign over his own blackface scandal.

“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,” Herring wrote in a statement. “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,” the attorney general added. “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.”

Herring said “the shame of that moment has haunted me for decades,” and added that “my disclosure of it now pains me immensely.” Nonetheless, he acknowledged that “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.”

Mark Herring contrasted the insensitivity of his blackface incident with the “man I have become in the nearly 40 years since.”

The attorney general concluded by suggesting that there should be a discussion as to whether or not he can remain in his post. “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.”

Mark Herring’s confession came days after the revelation of a blackface and Ku Klux Klan hood photo on the 1984 medical school yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.). Northam apologized for the photo but then backtracked, claiming that he was not in the photo. He then confessed to wearing blackface and dressing like Michael Jackson.

Many liberal groups have demanded Northam’s resignation. Even Planned Parenthood, which vociferously defended the governor amid his disgusting infanticide comments last week, turned on a dime when the blackface scandal emerged.

After Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Tom Perez called for Northam to resign, Mark Herring also demanded Northam’s resignation. “It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our Commonwealth,” Herring said. “I have spoken with Lieutenant Governor Fairfax and assured him that, should he ascend to the governorship, he will have my complete support and commitment to ensuring his success.”

Fairfax himself found himself caught up in a scandal, as a woman claimed he sexually assaulted her. He has denied the claim, but the woman hired the legal team behind Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

While Ralph Northam’s press conference this past Saturday was nothing less than surreal, Mark Herring deserves credit for confessing before any evidence of his blackface party emerged. However, Herring’s near-immediate call for Northam’s resignation, his delay in coming out with this confession, and his decision not to resign yet may come across as hypocrisy.

These scandals should make Democrats much more hesitant to paint Republicans as hateful racists, especially when those Republicans have denounced racism. Many liberal celebrities have also publicly worn blackface.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.