Attorney General Mark Herring says he wore blackface in college

By: - February 6, 2019 2:39 pm
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Adding to the political chaos that has gripped Virginia and thrust it into the national spotlight, Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement Wednesday in which he admitted to wearing in blackface at a college party.

Herring said that in 1980, when he was a 19-year-old undergraduate, he and his friends “dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup” to impersonate rappers they listened to at the time.

“This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct,” Herring states. “That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt.”

Herring attended the University of Virginia for both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Del. Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk, one of the members of the Legislative Black Caucus who met with Herring this morning, says Herring essentially just relayed what was in his statement. Lindsey’s reaction?

“I’m too old to react,” he said. He says he’s “taking a measured approach.”

The admission comes during a turbulent week for the state — just five days after Gov. Ralph Northam also admitted to dressing in blackface to impersonate Michael Jackson in 1984 following a public outcry for his resignation due to a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page. Northam initially apologized for appearing in the photo but now says it wasn’t him.

Herring had called on Northam to resign just days ago.

“In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general, but no matter where we go from here, I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation,” Herring said.

And to deepen the turmoil further, earlier in the week Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would take over as governor should Northam resign, was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

Ned Oliver contributed.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Katie O'Connor
Katie O'Connor

Katie, a Manassas native, has covered health care, commercial real estate, law, agriculture and tourism for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond BizSense and the Northern Virginia Daily. Last year, she was named an Association of Health Care Journalists Regional Health Journalism Fellow, a program to aid journalists in making national health stories local and using data in their reporting. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, where she was executive editor of The Flat Hat, the college paper, and editor-in-chief of The Gallery, the college’s literary magazine.