A Timeline of the Virginia Democratic Crisis

Both Governor Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax are currently under fire for scandals. (Style Weekly)

Both Governor Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax are currently under fire for scandals. (Style Weekly)

In the space of one week, a photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has surfaced showing Northam in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan outfit, two women have come forward and accused Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault and rape, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface in college. All three men are Democrats.

On February 1, a photo surfaced on the conservative website Big League Politics of Northam’s 1984 medical-school yearbook page, in which one man appears in a Ku Klux Klan robe and the other appears in blackface. That night, Northam accepted responsibility for appearing in the photo but never specified which man was him.  

The next day, Northam called a press conference, in which he insisted that he was neither of the men in the photo, but did admit to wearing shoe polish on his face in order to resemble Michael Jackson at a dance contest in college. A barrage of Democratic officials, including members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and several 2020 presidential contenders, immediately condemned the photograph and called for Mr. Northam to step down.

The next day, Vanessa Tyson, a fellow at Stanford University and associate professor at Scripps College, accused Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of forcing her to perform various sexual acts in a hotel room at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.  Fairfax has denied the allegations, stating that this was the work of his political rivals. He will become governor if Northam resigns.

“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual,” Tyson said.  Tyson’s attorney stated that Tyson will be meeting with prosecutors to discuss her allegations.

Two days later, both Northam and Fairfax reaffirmed their desires to stay in political office, going against the wishes of many within the Democratic Party.

The next day, attorney general Mark Herring, who will become governor if both Northam and Fairfax resign, tweeted a statement saying that he had also worn blackface in college for a costume of the rapper Kurtis Blow.

The next day, the majority leader of the Virginia State Senate, Republican Tommy Norment, was found to be the chief editor of a 1968 college yearbook that included photographs of students in blackface and several racist slurs. “I cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry or word on each page,” Mr. Norment said, adding that he condemned the use of blackface.

The next day, a second woman, Meredith Watson, accused Fairfax of sexual assault, claiming that he had raped her while they were both students at Duke University in 2000.  Fairfax issued another denial, calling the claim “demonstrably false,” while making it clear that he would not resign.  

“I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” he said. “Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”