Virginia Speaker: 'Our work continues unimpeded' by controversies

Virginia Speaker: 'Our work continues unimpeded' by controversies
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The Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday denounced admissions of racist behavior and allegations of sexual assault against the state's top three officials as "disturbing" and "shocking."

Speaker Kirk Cox (R) issued the statement addressing the scandals that have plunged the Commonwealth's leadership into turmoil in recent days while vowing that controversy surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) would not affect government operations.

“These current controversies will be resolved in due course," Cox, who would be next in line to become governor if Northam, Fairfax and Herring each resigned, said in the statement.

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"In the meantime, we will continue our work on the budget and the hundreds of bills remaining before us. The General Assembly will steadily continue with the business of governing on behalf of Virginia’s 8.4 million citizens," he continued.

"The people should be confident that our work continues unimpeded and that the Commonwealth’s 100,000 state employees also continue to serve without disruption," Cox said. "Our diverse Commonwealth has been deeply shaken by these developments, but nonetheless remains economically vibrant, fiscally sound, safe and secure."

The tumult in Virginia began last week when a photo surfaced from Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page that showed two individuals, one in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

Northam initially apologized for appearing in the image, but later said he did not believe he was either individual in the photo. He has so far resisted calls from national Democrats and lawmakers in Virginia to resign.

Fairfax then became the center of controversy on Monday when he denied sexual assault allegations published on a conservative website. His accuser, Vanessa Tyson, came forward on Wednesday to allege that the two had been consensually kissing during a 2004 encounter, but that Fairfax then forced her to perform oral sex.

On Wednesday, Herring admitted that, like Northam, he too had worn blackface while in college, when he dressed up as a rapper for a party.

Cox called Herring's admission that he wore blackface roughly 40 years ago while in college "shocking." He also warned that the attorney general would lose credibility if he did not "adhere to the standard he has set for others," a reference to Herring's calls for Northam to resign following a press conference in which the governor admitted to wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume.

Several lawmakers have spoken out about the controversies surrounding Fairfax and Herring, though neither has yet faced overwhelming calls to resign, like Northam.

Rep. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonProgressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats Congress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Lawmakers battle over HUD protections for homeless transgender people MORE (D-Va.) on Wednesday became the first federal lawmaker from Virginia to comment on Fairfax's case, tweeting that she believes Tyson.