Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday that he had put on blackface when he was a college student in the ‘80s.
Herring, who is second line to be governor following Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, issued a statement explaining that he “put on wigs and brown makeup” with other friends to look like a black rapper at a party in 1980.
Pointing to their “ignorance and glib attitudes,” Herring explained that “this was a one-time occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct.”
He adds that the incident shows that he “had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain [his] behavior could inflict on others” as a young man. “It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”
The revelation adds to a growing scandal facing the Democratic leadership in Virginia government. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is facing calls to resign after discovery of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page that depicted someone in black face standing next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would be second in line should Northam be forced to resign, is similarly facing controversy—he has been accused of sexual misconduct, an allegation he denies.
Herring, who would be next in line, had already been among those who has called for Northam’s resignation. Just days ago, he said “it is not longer possible” for Northam to remain in office.
While admitting to his own past may help him get ahead of his own scandal, Herring did leave an opening for him to leave office as well. “Honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general,” he said.