Virginia Republicans offer reward for blackface photo of attorney general
Weeks after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, one of the commonwealth's top three Democrats, confessed to wearing blackface at a college party in 1980, the Republican Party of Virginia wants photographic evidence.
As Gov. Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax faces controversy over blackface and sexual assault allegations respectively, Herring issued a statement revealing that he nd two friends dressed up to look like rappers they listened to during their time at the University of Virginia, including Kurtis Blow.
Herring said he wore brown makeup and a wig as a 19-year-old undergraduate.
"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," he said.
"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."
At the time, rumors circulated that a photo of that incident existed, but nearly a month later, such a photo has not been revealed.
Herring, who announced plans earlier this year to run for governor in 2021, was among those who
as governor after the discovery of a photo of someone in blackface on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. The photo that appeared in Northam's half-page profile shows someone in blackface standing next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
Fairfax, in line to be governor if Northam were to resign, has been
, which he denies.
Earlier this week, Herring made his first public appearance since the revelations, apologizing for his actions and saying he's grown from his mistakes.
My use of blackface was a dumb, cruel, and racist action that dehumanized people of color, and minimized a horrific history of exploitation and oppression,” he wrote in an Op-Ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch . “I am deeply sorry for the pain it has caused, especially to members of the African-American community who have placed their trust in me.”
Many of the Democrats who called for Northam's resignation have been more forgiving of Herring, who would be replaced by Republican Kirk Cox if he stepped down. Northam would be replaced by Fairfax.
The Republican Party of Virginia, on the other hand, is not backing down.
In a press release issued on March 5, the party said "Herring stated that he spoke with 'college friends' about his appearance in blackface and double checked if anyone had photo evidence of his indiscretions. Herring claims to not know if there is a photo, but does anyone really believe him? The Republican Party of Virginia is seeking further evidence of Mark Herring’s blackface and the witnesses to his racist past."
So the party states that they are offering a $1,000 reward for a "verified copy" of a photo showing Herring in blackface or verifiable contact information for one of his UVA fraternity brothers who could produce such a photo.
John March, spokesman for the party, said the reward is only available for the first person to provide a verifiable photo.
Speaking this week, Herring defended his decision to call for the governor's resignation, saying he only did so when it became clear that Northam had lost the public's trust. The governor initially apologized for being in a racist picture that surfaced in his 1984 medical school yearbook. A day later, Northam said he wasn't in the picture but had dressed in blackface during a dance competition the same year.
"For me, it was really about the public trust and I want to be clear about this: I would hold myself to the same standard," Herring said.
Critics have assailed both Northam and Fairfax for how they've handled their respective scandals. Northam's been ridiculed for an awkward performance at a news conference while Fairfax has been criticized for comparing himself to Jim Crow-era lynching victims.
Herring, though, kept an extremely low profile and all but disappeared after issuing his initial statement, which can be found below.
Republicans on Monday said Herring's re-emergence rang hollow.
"Mark Herring thought appearing in blackface was worth resignation when it was Ralph Northam. Now he's tying himself in knots trying to explain why his blackface scandal is different," said Garren Shipley, Virginia communications director for the Republican National Committee.
The attorney general did not directly respond to questions about whether he still thinks Northam should resign. The governor has resisted widespread calls to step down, instead saying he wants to focus on racial reconciliation during his remaining three years in office. Herring has said that is what he wants to do as well.
Before the blackface scandals erupted, Herring had said he planned to run for governor in 2021. He said Monday that those plans are not on his mind at the moment.
"Obviously, I am not thinking about that at all. What I am focused on is what has happened in Virginia over the last month and what I might be able to do to repair the damage," Herring said.
Herring's initial statement is below:
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