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Virginia's Attorney General admits to wearing blackface in college, dressing up like rapper Kurtis Blow

2019-02-06

Mark Herring said he and his friends dressed up like rappers they listened to, including Kurtis Blow, for a college party in 1980. (Getty Images)

Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday that he wore blackface for a college party in the ‘80s to be “dressed like rappers” he listened to at the time.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song. It sounds ridiculous even now writing it,” Herring wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “But because of ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Herring said it was a “onetime occurrence” and he accepts full responsibility.

He also noted that “honest” conversations in the days ahead will make it clear whether or not he can continue to serve as attorney general, a position he has held since 2014.

“That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt,” the Democrat said.

The news of Herring dressing in blackface comes on the heels of current governor Ralph Northam refusing to resign after his own scandal. A photo from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page was released last week showing two men - one in blackface and the other wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.

Northam, who originally said he was in the photo, later said at a press conference that he didn’t think he was either of the people in the image. He did acknowledge that in 1984 he darkened his face for a Michael Jackson costume.

“Today I am not ready to ask Virginians for forgiveness for my past actions,” the 59-year-old Democrat said. “Right now I am simply asking for the opportunity to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person I was is not the man I am today.”

Herring is third in line for the governor’s office. He was also the co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association but has stepped aside, a spokesperson told the Daily News.

Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would assume office if Northam did resign, was accused earlier this week of sexually assaulting a woman at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. He denies the allegation.

Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to lead a conversation about race and reconciliation at Virginia Union University Thursday, the Associated Press reported. The event was announced before Herring released his statement.