Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Northam Says He Won't Resign Amid Virginia's Scandal

Second woman accuses Virginia's Lt Governor of sexual assault Embattled Virginia leader wants to focus on racial equity
Jeannette Daniel | 11 February, 2019, 16:39

Virginia governor Ralph Northam has come to his final decision: he will not resign from office over allegations he posed in blackface in a yearbook photo from the mid-1980s.

It may be tough to believe it's been just a week and a half since a racist photograph in a decades-old medical school yearbook knocked Virginia's leadership into disarray.

But he acknowledged wearing blackface on a separate occasion that year while dressing up as Michael Jackson.

Northam is identified as one of the men in the photo - the picture actually appears on his "profile" page in the yearbook - but, despite an early apology and vague admission, he denies that he dressed up as either character.

Looking ahead, Northam said he has asked his cabinet secretaries to come up with specific proposals to begin addressing issues of inequality, such as expanding access to healthcare, housing and transportation, and to begin reporting suggestions this week.

"I have a lot more to learn... I've been in some very hard situations, life-and-death situations, taking care of sick children", Northam said. "There's no better person to do that than a doctor", Northam said.

"Right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. I promise that my work on this issue will be tireless until we have a process and outcome that treats these women with the respect they deserve going forward". An attorney for Watson says her client also is willing to testify in front of the state legislature if an impeachment hearing takes place.

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Statues of Confederate leaders have been flashpoints for protest and race conflicts in recent years.

"I can not believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual".

Other senior authority figures in the state are facing their own controversies. Next in line after Fairfax (should he resign or be removed) would be State Attorney General Mark Herring, who is also at the center of a scandal after admitting that he himself wore blackface in the past.

But it was also one of the most significant regions for the Atlantic slave trade, the main battleground of the mid-19th century Civil War that was fought over slavery, and later one of the states most resistant to the civil rights movement that brought an end to segregation.

All three are Democrats. Although the party has taken an nearly zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, a housecleaning in Virginia could be costly: If all three Democrats resigned, Republican state House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.

Fairfax was accused by two women of sexual assault, including rape by one of the women. He said Saturday he heard from Tyson after their encounter and he knew Watson after their encounter, and he said neither ever "said or otherwise indicated that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort".

The woman, identified as Meredith Watson, claims Fairfax raped her in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University in North Carolina.

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