RICHMOND, Va. — A growing political crisis in Virginia with all three state-wide elected leaders now embroiled in scandals. Attorney General Mark Herring revealed Wednesday that he too dressed in blackface as young man, just as Governor Ralph Northam did.
Hours later, the woman accusing Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault came forward with her story. Fairfax would be next in line to the Governorship should Northam resign.
The Lt. Governor presides over the Virginia Senate. At around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Fairfax graveled the chamber into session and lawmakers set about their work voting on legislation. But a growing crisis hung in the air.
Late in the day, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a college professor, released a statement with details of what she believes was a sexual assault. Fairfax has denied the accusations from 2004 and says they were consensual.
Tyson said "What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault." She accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex during the encounter at a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. She said, "I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual," said Tyson.
Hours before Tyson released her statement, Fairfax sent out a second statement denying the allegations, saying that the encounter was consensual and he urged all to treat his accuser with respect.
The crisis began on Friday with Governor Ralph Northam with that racist photo on his medical school yearbook page. He first apologize and admitted it was him, then said it he was sure it wasn't him... But did say that he dressed in black face to portray Michael Jackson in a dance contest.
Early Wednesday, Attorney General Herring released a statement revealing that he dressed in blackface while in college.
Neither Herring, Fairfax nor Northam would answer questions on Wednesday. Lawmakers also dogged reporters.
Calls for Northam's resignation came from political leaders near and far over the weekend. But now, there's only confusion over who, if any of the three top state leaders, should step down. Former Lt. Governor John Hager, a Republican, did not call for the resignation of any of the three.
"He has to weigh the situation and see how things develop," and the same thing for Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring, he said.
Democrats are not commenting on the Fairfax story or Herring story at this point. A few democrats told WUSA9 that they never called for Northam's resignation.
Some observers think these new scandals will buy Governor Ralph Northam some more time. He has told friends that he wants to clear his name and does not want to be labeled a racist.
Vanessa Tyson said her motivation for coming forward now is to "refute Mr. Fairfax's falsehoods and aspersions of my character." She had reached out to the Washington back in 2017, but the newspaper did not run the story then because they could not corroborate it.