Al Sharpton calls for Virginia AG to resign over blackface

Al Sharpton calls for Virginia AG to resign over blackface
© Anna Moneymaker

The Rev. Al Sharpton on Wednesday called for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) to resign after Herring admitted to wearing blackface as a teen, the latest scandal to engulf the state’s top leaders.

“We must deal with the fact that there’s a constitutional crisis in Virginia and that it’s based on race on the 400th anniversary that we were brought here as slaves to Virginia,”  Sharpton told BuzzFeed News. “For us to now to see leading officials admitting they engaged in overt racist behavior — not slip of the tongue or street talk — affirms this was an act of them mocking blacks using a tradition designed to dehumanize us.”

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Sharpton previously called for the resignation of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) after Northam’s page in his medical school yearbook surfaced, showing one man dressed in blackface and another in a KKK robe.

“You were mocking at a time of black advancement,” Sharpton said on MSNBC’s Hardball. “I think he should resign immediately.”

Sharpton also weighed in on the sexual assault allegation facing Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), saying that it should be “totally and properly” investigated.

“We’re talking about a situation that has to be judged on based on the allegations of [people] in a relationship, as opposed to people who mocked a whole race based on white supremacy.”

In a statement earlier Wednesday, Herring said he wore blackface while impersonating a rapper at a party.

“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,” Herring said.

“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 added.

Herring’s statement adds to a worsening crisis in Virginia’s government.

Amid calls for him to resign, Northam denied being in the yearbook photo but said he did darken his skin once to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest. He has thus far refused calls to step down.

Days after the Northam news broke, a woman accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax denies the allegation, saying their sexual activities were consensual.

“At no time did she express to me any discomfort or concern about our interactions, neither during that encounter nor doing the months following it, when she stayed in touch with me, nor the past fifteen years,” he said in a statement. “She in no way indicated that anything that had happened between us made her uncomfortable.”

Herring’s admission embroils the last Democrat in-line for the governorship in scandal. If all three resign, state House Speaker Kirk Cox (R) will become the governor.

Sharpton, a longtime advocate on civil rights issues, has been critical of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE, saying in an op-ed last year Trump was “undoing the progress” of the civil rights movement.  

Sharpton is scheduled to speak Thursday at Virginia Union University, a historically black institution.