Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring Admits That He Wore Blackface During A College Party

Admission follows Gov. Ralph Northam's blackface photo, as well as sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Northam, Fairfax, and Herring at a campaign event
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Admission follows Gov. Ralph Northam's blackface photo, as well as sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Another top Democratic elected official has admitted that he wore blackface while he was in college.

Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, admitted in a statement Wednesday that he wore makeup and a wig in order to imitate a rapper while attending a college party when he was a University of Virginia undergraduate in 1980. Per an Associated Press report provided by Bloomberg, Herring apologized for the choice, stating that he is “deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation.”

Unlike with Northam, whose medical school yearbook surfaced last week with a photo of one man in blackface and another dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, no photographs have come out of Herring dressed in blackface.

Herring’s statement attempted to explain what had happened nearly 40 years ago, while also expressing regret, which he says he has lived with ever since. He said that when he was 19-years-old, he and some friends decided to attend a campus party “dressed up like rappers we listened to at the time,” such as Kurtis Blow, and that the costumes involved both wigs and brown makeup.

The attorney general also expressed that he has sought throughout his public career to push policies in favor of racial equality.

“As a senator and as attorney general, I have felt an obligation to not just acknowledge but work affirmatively to address the racial inequities and systemic racism that we know exist in our criminal justice system, in our election processes, and in other institutions of power,” Herring said in his statement. “I have long supported efforts to empower communities of color by fighting for access to healthcare, making it easier and simpler to vote, and twice defended the historic re-enfranchisement of former felons before the Supreme Court of Virginia.”

Herring’s admission comes as Northam’s yearbook surfaced and the governor admitted separately that he once wore blackface to dress in costume as Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has now been accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the Democratic National Convention. After Fairfax, Herring, as attorney general, is next in line for Virginia’s governorship. None of the three men, however, have indicated any plans to resign despite numerous calls from prominent Democrats for Northam to step down. The Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox would be next in line for the governorship after Northam, Fairfax, and Herring.

Herring, at least prior to the recent run of controversies, had been expected to run for governor of Virginia in 2021.