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Craig Carper and Ben Paviour Discuss a Whirlwind 24 Hours at Capitol Square

Ben PaviourWCVE News


Carper: From the State Capitol in Richmond, I’m Craig Carper.

I’m joined now by state politics reporter Ben Paviour. Hi Ben.

Paviour: Hi, Craig.

Carper: Ben, we’re following several developing stories that have jeopardized the careers of Virginia’s 3 top state elected officials, who are all Democrats.

Yesterday Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he also dressed up in blackface as a 19-year-old in the 1980. In a statement, he said that he and his friends dressed as rappers, darkened their skin with makeup and performed a song together in college.

Herring apologized and called his behavior callous and inexcusable.

This comes after Herring called for Governor Ralph Northam’s resignation after a racist photo appeared on Northam’s page from his 1984 Med school yearbook.

Ben, what are we hearing from lawmakers following this admission from Herring?

Paviour: No one is eager to talk about this--especially not Democrats. After this news broke yesterday morning a lot of them basically sprinted past reporters. The ones who did talk often said something like this from Delegate Lee Carter:

“In deference to the people that are most affected by these actions, I am waiting to make a statement so that the people who should speak first on this, can.”

He’s talking about the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and we’re still waiting from a statement from them.

Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox put out his own statement last night. He said the revelations over the last week have been “disturbing.” And he said Herring should “adhere to the standard he has set for others or he loses credibility.” He’s pointing out that Herring called for Northam’s resignation after those original yearbook photos surfaced.

Carper: We’re also following the latest developments in an allegation of sexual assault against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps College, says that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Her statement goes into graphic detail about the alleged incident, which Fairfax still denies. Tyson says this was a really devastating and traumatic experience. And when Fairfax was elected Lt. Governor, it all came rushing back.

Ben, what does Fairfax say yesterday in response to Tyson?

Paviour: Fairfax still very forcefully denied this accusation. When he first spoke about the incident on Monday, he suggested the timing was suspicious and seemed to question her motives.

Yesterday Fairfax’s statement was much more measured. He said he supports the #MeToo movement and added that accusers should be heard - saying Tyson should be treated with respect.

But, he also hired a law firm last January when the Washington Post began investigating the allegation. It’s the same firm that Brett Kavanaugh ended up hiring when he was accused of sexual assault during the Supreme Court hearings. And Tyson’s using the same firm that Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, hired at that time.

Carper: Wow. And there’s also an investigation into Northam’s yearbook photo, too - right?

Paviour: That’s right. Northam’s alma mater, Eastern Virginia Medical School, is launching its own investigation. Here’s their president Richard Homan, at a press conference on Tuesday, talking about the photos. There’s more than one from the 1984 yearbook picturing men in blackface.

“Some are shockingly racist. Some are repugnant and some are unprofessional and inappropriate.”

Other photos that have been surfacing. Just yesterday we saw a photo from a 1980 University of Richmond yearbook showing a black man surrounded by four men wearing Ku Klux Klan costumes. The university called the photo repulsive and said it was committed to exploring “troubling moments of our past.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Capitol Police put Sergeant Robert Stamm on permanent leave pending an investigation. Activists dug up social media posts showing the officer with tattoos and flags associated with white nationalism.

One post displays the logo of the organization Asatru Folk Assembly. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists it as a hate group.

Carper: Thanks Ben. We’re going to continue following as these stories develop. You can stay informed by listening to our coverage during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can also track our coverage online at Finally you can follow us on Twitter @wcve.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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