Possible impeachment could further upend Virginia politics

Pastor Lacette Cross speaks during a protest calling for Governor Ralph Northam to resign on Monday
Credit
Shelby Lum

Northam told "CBS This Morning" in an interview broadcast Monday that he was "in a state of shock" and mistakenly took responsibility for the image of a man in blackface and a man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit because he had never seen it before, even though it was on his yearbook page.

He is among the top three Democrats in the state who have been rocked by scandal in the past couple of weeks.

Virginia Gov. Northam on whether the commonwealth's Attorney General Mark Herring should resign over blackface scandal: "I regret that our attorney general is in this position". Although the party has taken an nearly zero-tolerance approach to misconduct among its members in this #MeToo era, a housecleaning in Virginia could be costly: If all three Democrats resigned, Republican state House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.

"When I was confronted with the images yesterday I was appalled that they appeared on my page", Northam said during a press conference on February 2, "but I believe then and now, that I am not either of the people in that photo". This prompted the two women who have accused Fairfax of assault to say they'd be willing to testify in any impeachment proceedings.

Mr Northam was asked why he initially apologised for the photo before backtracking and denying he was either in the picture.

Ralph Northam said Sunday he has no intention of resigning, despite widespread calls for him to quit because of a racist picture on his personal page in a 1984 medical school yearbook and his use of black face to depict a pop music star.

Fairfax denies ever sexually assaulting anyone.

Fairfax, meanwhile, released a statement on Saturday again saying the encounters were consensual and called for an impartial law enforcement body to investigate. A public relations firm representing Watson provided The Associated Press with a 2016 email exchange with a female friend and 2017 text exchanges in which Watson said Fairfax had raped her. Both men have signaled they have no intention of resigning - despite calls to resign from a host of Democrats with national profiles.

"And if these accusations are determined to be true, I don't think he's going to have any other option but to resign", Northam said.

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"I know that sometimes", Whitehead argued, "it's a case of 'I'm supposed to respond like this.' And 'this is what's expected of me.'" The blackface controversy has exploded into a full blown crisis for Northam's Democratic Party after it emerged his deputy Justin Fairfax had been accused by two women of sexual misconduct, likely ruling him out of contention should his boss bow to calls to step down.

Presenter Gayle King, who is African American, said: "Also known as slavery".

But he acknowledged wearing blackface on a separate occasion that year while dressing up as Michael Jackson.

The poll, taken late last week, showed that by a wide margin those surveyed said Herring should remain in office. "The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor", he added.

The first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we call now Fort Monroe, and while - " Northam said on the show.

"It is atrocious that he will be presiding over the Senate of Virginia today with these allegations", Hope said in a statement.

If Fairfax were to leave, it's unclear who could replace him. "As a firm, we believe that it is important to seriously listen to any allegation of sexual assault or harassment, and to treat all persons making such allegations with respect and sensitivity".

Fairfax would become governor if Northam resigns.

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