VA Black Clergy -- Moratorium on Resignation Calls; Impeachment Effort Delay (Update)

Feb 11, 2019

Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA)
Credit Northam campaign website

(AP) A group of black clergy and community leaders is asking for a moratorium on the widespread calls for Virginia's governor and attorney general to resign over their admissions they wore blackface in the 1980s.
The Rev. Rodney Hunter is co-director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and pastor of Richmond's Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
He said Monday that the records of Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring show "they are different people" than they were when they wore blackface more than three decades ago.
Hunter says the group is also calling for an end to the push for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to resign. Hunter said Fairfax deserves due process over sexual assault allegations made by two women. Hunter's group plans to hold a news conference Monday afternoon on the steps of the state Capitol.

Impeachment Effort Delayed

Delegate Patrick Hope (D-VA)
Credit twitter

(AP) A Virginia lawmaker is now suggesting he won't move forward Monday with plans to introduce an impeachment bill seeking Fairfax's ouster.

Democratic Del. Patrick Hope had said he wanted to introduce articles of impeachment Monday against Fairfax after two women recently accused the Democrat of sexual assault in the 2000s. Fairfax has vehemently denied the claims and called for authorities, including the FBI, to investigate.

Hope said on Twitter early Monday that he had circulated a draft of the impeachment action with his colleagues and received what he called "an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback." Hope now says "additional conversations ... need to take place before anything is filed."

Impeachment was always unlikely to happen during this legislative session, but lawmakers could revisit it later this year if the political crisis continues.

Women Willing to Testify

Vanessa Tyson
Credit Stanford University

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Attorneys for a woman who has accused Virginia's embattled lieutenant governor of sexual assault say their client is "prepared to testify at impeachment proceedings and to cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation."

Attorneys Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks released the statement Saturday night on behalf of Vanessa Tyson, a California college professor, who said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him at a Boston hotel in 2004.

A second woman, Meredith Watson, has accused Fairfax of rape in 2000. An attorney for Watson says her client also is willing to testify in front of the state legislature if an impeachment hearing takes place.

Fairfax has denied the allegations, said he does not intend to immediately resign and called for the FBI and other authorities to investigate.

Indentured Servants

Historic Drawing of Slavery
Credit historic drawing

Historians say Northam wrongly used the term "indentured servants" when referring to the first Africans to arrive in what is now Virginia. Scholars say they were enslaved.
During an interview Sunday on CBS, Northam said the "first indentured servants from Africa" arrived in 1619. Interviewer Gayle King interjected, saying, "also known as slavery." Northam replied "yes."
Davidson College professor Michael Guasco confirms that some historians did use the term in the 1970s to 1990s to describe the small group of Africans who arrived because a few of them became free decades later. But he says historians have since confirmed through records that these first Africans in Virginia arrived as slaves and that most remained enslaved.
Northam said in a statement Monday that a historian recently advised him to use the "indentured servant" term. He said he's "still learning and committed to getting it right."

Northam: Overreacted on Yearbook

Page from Governor Ralph Northam's Medical School Yearbook
Credit Yearbook

Northam says he initially overreacted to a yearbook blackface photo in comments that set off a political crisis engulfing the state's Democratic leadership.
Northam told "CBS This Morning" in an interview broadcast Monday that he was "in a state of shock" and mistakenly took responsibility for the image of a man in blackface and a man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit because he had never seen it before, even though it was on his yearbook page.
But then he said he took another look at the picture and realized that neither man in the picture was him.
He says he's learned that he needs to better understand what it means to be "born in white privilege." And he says everything happens for a reason, which is why he plans to dedicate the rest of his tenure as governor to policies aimed at helping his black constituents.
He says he'll "focus on race and equity" as his "commitment to Virginia" for the next three years.