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 WarnerZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Senate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' US ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out MORE and Tim Kaime and Reps. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Democrats divided on surprise medical bill fix NYC teacher suing DeVos over student loan forgiveness program MORE, Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyPerry won't comply with subpoena in impeachment inquiry Trump confirms Rick Perry to step down as Energy secretary Overnight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule MORE, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference Racial politics roil Democratic Party MORE, Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaPelosi-backed group funding ads for vulnerable Democrats amid impeachment inquiry Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year CNN faces backlash for video highlighting white congresswomen as impeachment leaders MORE, Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation Bipartisan lawmakers who visited Syrian border slam Trump's 'rash decision' Pelosi-backed group funding ads for vulnerable Democrats amid impeachment inquiry MORE and Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonCarson defends transgender comments, hits media for 'mischaracterizations' Ben Carson's remarks during San Francisco visit spark backlash Democrats blast HUD for removing LGBT language from grant competition 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.