Virginia congressional delegation says it's 'devastated by’ Richmond Turmoil

The Democratic members of the Virginia congressional delegation said Thursday they are “devastated” by the growing scandal in Richmond that has ensnared the Democratic governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general of their state. 

“Like other Virginians, we have been devastated by these horrible developments,” Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand On The Money: Fed chief warns of 'unthinkable' harm if debt ceiling breached | Powell basks in bipartisan praise amid Trump attacks | Federal deficit jumps to 7 billion Fed chief basks in bipartisan praise as lawmakers dismiss Trump attacks MORE and Tim Kaime and Reps. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottThis week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt CBO report should spike minimum wage legislation New CBO report fuels fight over minimum wage MORE, Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyFour heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities Ex-ICE chief blasts House Democrat after tense hearing: 'He ran out of there like a little girl' Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy MORE, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinRacial politics roil Democratic Party CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Harris hops past Biden in early race for Black Caucus support MORE, Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaBipartisan group of lawmakers invites colleagues to tour DC's Holocaust museum Hopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal The benefit of electing veterans is more bipartisan lawmaking MORE, Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerKatherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent Democrats 'shooting holes in their own boat' with single-payer plan Hillicon Valley: Trump gets pushback after reversing course on Huawei | China installing surveillance apps on visitors' phones | Internet provider Cloudflare suffers outage | Consumer groups look to stop Facebook cryptocurrency MORE and 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 wrote in a joint statement. “There’s no question that Virginians’ faith in their government and leaders has understandably been deeply shaken.” 

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Old Dominion’s leadership in Richmond has been embroiled in a nearly weeklong scandal that started when a picture from Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) medical school yearbook page emerged showing a man in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.

Northam apologized Friday, admitting he was one of the two people in the photo. He then reversed course Saturday, saying he did not appear in the picture but did wear blackface during a 1984 dance competition. 

He has so far resisted an avalanche of bipartisan calls to resign, saying he intends to serve out the remainder of his term. Among those calling for Northam’s ouster was state Attorney General Mark Herring, who Wednesday preemptively admitted that he too wore blackface to a party while he was an undergraduate in college. 

“We are brokenhearted that the actions of Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring have reopened old wounds left by Virginia’s long history of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and systemic racism,” the Virginia delegation said. “We have each publicly called for Governor Northam to resign.” 

“Yesterday, we were shocked and saddened to learn of the incident in the Attorney General’s past. The Attorney General has earnestly reached out to each of us to apologize and express his deep remorse. We understand that he is currently engaged in in-depth discussions with leaders and others in Virginia. The Attorney General must continue those conversations, and stand ready to answer questions from the public if he is to regain their trust.”

Vanessa Tyson also issued a statement Wednesday detailing what she says was a sexual assault perpetrated by Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax in 2004. 

“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault," Tyson, a college professor from California, said in the statement. "Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him." 

Fairfax issued a statement earlier Wednesday maintaining that his interaction with Tyson was 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,” Fairfax said in the statement. “She in no way indicated that anything that had happened between us made her uncomfortable.” 

While many in Washington and Richmond were at first hesitant to weigh in on Tyson’s claims, a growing number of politicians began expressing support for her after her detailed statement Wednesday.

“We are deeply disturbed by the account detailing the alleged actions of Lieutenant Governor Fairfax. We believe these allegations need to be taken very seriously, and we respect the right of women to come forward and be heard,” the Virginia delegation said.

The scandal embroiling the top three officials in Virginia has thrust Republican Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox into the spotlight. Cox gained his role after a coin toss decided which party controlled the legislative body. 

The Virginia delegation members promised to keep themselves apprised of the situation in Richmond and remain in dialogue with one another.

“We will continue in dialogue with one another and our constituents in the coming days, and evaluate additional information as it comes to light,” their letter says.