President Trump on Sunday waded into the scandals roiling Virginia, tweeting that “African Americans are very angry at the double standard on full display” in the state.
Trump was apparently referring to the optics of pending impeachment talks for the only statewide-elected black official, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, who faces two allegations of sexual assault. Meanwhile, two white state officials who have admitted to wearing blackface as young men — stirring painful reminders of Virginia’s history of racism — are refusing to step down.
Fairfax denied the allegations, called for an investigation of them, and vowed to remain in office as a growing number of fellow Democrats urged him to resign.
The series of scandals began at the start of the month, when racist imagery was unearthed in Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook. One of the photos on Northam’s page was of a man in blackface next to someone else dressed in Ku Klux Klan-style robes and hood.
Northam initially admitted to being in the photo, but later denied it but added that he once put shoe polish on his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume.
As Northam faced calls for his resignation, additional controversies hit his potential successors last week.
Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement saying he wore “brown makeup” at a 1980 college party for which he and his friends wanted to dress as rappers.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax waves to the crowd as he and his family arrive for his inauguration at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/P. Kevin Morley)
Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, gestures during a debate with Republican Virginia State Sen. Jill Vogel, right, at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
In this Thursday Oct. 5, 2017 photo Democrat Justin Fairfax gestures during a debate with Republican Virginia State Sen. Jill Vogel, right, at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va. Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, and Vogel, a state senator from Fauquier County, are running for lieutenant governor in next month’s election. The post that offers few formal duties other than breaking ties in the state Senate but invariably serves as a launching post for future gubernatorial runs. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
CORRECTS FAIRFAX'S FIRST NAME TO JUSTIN FROM JUSTINE - Democrat Lt. Gov.-elect Justin Fairfax addresses the Ralph Northam For Governor election night party at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, bottom center, waves to the gallery prior to delivering his State of the Commonwealth address as Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, top left, House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, top center, and State Sen. Stephen Newman, R-Bedford, applaud before a joint session of the Virginia General Assembly at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, left, listens to assistant Senate Crerk, Tara Perkinson, as he prepares to preside over the Senate at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Virginians are now taking a closer look at Fairfax as he suddenly looms as the successor to Gov. Ralph Northam, whose political future is in jeopardy after a blackface photo was discovered on Northam's personal page in his medical school yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax presides over a session of the state senate inside the capital building in dowtown Richmond, on February 4, 2019. - Virginia politics went into further turmoil as the lieutenant governor of the eastern US state, where the governor is under intense pressure to resign, was accused of sexual misconduct. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who would take over if Governor Ralph Northam steps down, strongly denied the allegation made by a woman about a sexual encounter they had in a hotel room 15 years ago. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Dr. Vanessa Tyson came forward and accused Fairfax of forced oral sex at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston. On Friday, a second Fairfax accuser, Meredith Watson, accused him of raping her in 2000, while they were both attending Duke University. Fairfax claimed both encounters were consensual.
Both women would be willing to testify at impeachment proceedings against Fairfax, their attorneys said.