Embattled Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D), who is dealing with a blackface controversy, and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D), who has been accused of sexual assault by two women, are vowing not to resign.
Northam reportedly told his Cabinet on Friday that he has no plans to resign and on Saturday told the Washington Post that he is planning a “reconciliation tour” that he will use to, according to the outlet, “engage in conversations about race and healing.”
“It’s obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity,” Northam reportedly said. “There are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entrepreneurship. And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mistakes.”
Last week, after a photo of someone in a KKK hood and another in blackface on Northam’s medical school yearbook page made national headlines, Northam first apologized for being one of the people in the photo. Less than 24 hours later, Northam said he was not in the photo in a bizarre press conference in which he also admitted that he had put on blackface for a dance contest to look like Michael Jackson.
Northam reportedly believes he can “heal” the pain Virginians are feeling and thinks “there’s a reason” that the blackface controversy occurred this year–“on the 400th anniversary of the first Africans arriving in Virginia to be sold into slavery.”
“I want to heal that pain, and I want to make sure that all Virginians have equal opportunity . . . and I think I’m the person that can do that for Virginia,” he told the Post. “I really do believe there’s a calling for all of us, and the fact that this happened this year… I think there’s a reason for that.”
He said he will ensure that there will be “sensitivity training” in the government, adding that he will also reach out to schools across Virginia to talk about sensitivity training as well. He said that he believes sensitivity training and addressing “white privilege” is extremely important—“even into the K-through 12 age range.”
Fairfax was reportedly preparing to become Virginia’s next governor when he was rocked with a sexual assault allegation. Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a Scripps College (CA) professor, alleged that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
“As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him. I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual,” Tyson said in a statement. “To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent.”
On Friday, a second woman—Meredith Watson—accused Fairfax of raping her while they were students at Duke University.
Watson, through her attorneys, said she hopes Fairfax “will resign from public office” and added that she was “reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty” because she “was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her.”
“Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive,” Watson’s statement read. “The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.”
Fairfax has denied both allegations and reportedly vowed that he will not resign.
“I will not resign,” Fairfax reportedly said in a Friday evening statement to the Daily Beast.
“I have never forced myself on anyone, ever. I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” he reportedly added. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.”
Numerous prominent Democrats running for president—like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ)—called on Fairfax to resign, as did numerous prominent Virginia Democrats.
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) also called on Fairfax to resign, which was intriguing because Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D), who was McAuliffe’s deputy campaign manager and former Cabinet official, is expected to be one of Fairfax’s chief rivals in a potential 2021 gubernatorial primary.
Earlier in the week, Fairfax reportedly hung up on Stoney after the two had a “heated” conversation about whether Stoney leaked to the media about the sexual assault allegation against Fairfax.
“It did become heated. I called, initiated the call to inform the lieutenant governor that we, my team, me personally, had nothing to do with the allegations,” Stoney reportedly said. “The leak. And I wanted him to know, unequivocally that I had nothing to do with it.”
When reporters asked Fairfax if he thought Stoney tipped off the media about the sexual assault charges against Stoney, Fairfax replied: “Here’s the thing, I will tell you what, you all, you are great reporters…. You’ll get to digging and be able to make some connections.”