Virginia Attorney General Herring says he wore blackface at a college party in 1980

Updated: Feb. 6, 2019 at 5:35 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia’s Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring says he wore blackface at a college party in 1980.

In a statement issued Wednesday, he says he wore brown makeup and a wig to look like a black rapper during a party as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia.

“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," said Herring in the statement. " ... This conduct is in no way reflective of the man I have become in the nearly 40 years since."

“It’s a mess,” said state Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chespeake) to the Washington Post as he emerged from the attorney general’s office building shortly before 11 a.m.

“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," Herring said in the statement.

The Republican Party of Virginia has called for Herring to resign.

“The Republican Party of Virginia calls on Mark Herring to resign his post as Attorney General. Like we have had to say too many times this week, racism has no place in Virginia and dressing up in blackface is wholly unacceptable,” RPV Chairman Jack Wilson said in a release.

Virginia Speaker of the House Kirk Cox said the revelations against and admissions by the leaders of the executive branch are “disturbing.”

““The belated admission from Attorney General Herring is shocking. He should adhere to the standard he has set for others or he loses credibility,” Cox said.

Wednesday’s statement from Herring comes days after he urged Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after a racist photo emerged on the governor’s yearbook page from 1984.

On Friday, he took responsibility for that photo but says in the hours following, he reflected with family and friends and does not believe the photo is of him because he has no memory of it. Northam said that Friday was the first time he saw the yearbook that includes someone in blackface and a KKK robe.

While Northam said this is not him in the photo, he said that he did dress up as Michael Jackson when he was 25 years old and darken his face then on a separate occasion in San Antonio for a dance contest.

Amid the controversy, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has faced sexual assault allegations from 2004.

He did acknowledge there was a sexual encounter with the woman but he said the relations were consensual.

“I was 25 years old, unmarried, a campaign staffer, at the time," said Fairfax. "We hit it off. She was very interested in me and so at one point, we ended up going to my hotel room... She was very much into consensual encounter.”

On Wednesday, he issued a statement on the allegation:

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