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Attorney General Herring discusses Gov. Northam’s changing blackface story, ‘evaporating trust’

Posted at 11:39 PM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 07:29:41-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- In his first interview since all three of Virginia's top Democrats found themselves in the midst of controversy, Attorney General Mark Herring apologized Monday on a Washington radio show for dressing in blackface at a college party nearly 40 years ago.

"It was a terrible decision. Blackface is always wrong and I am ashamed to say at 19 years old in 1980, I did not know that," Herring said. "That one incident in no way reflected the young man I matured into, let alone the public servant I became, but I did it and I'm so very sorry."

Herring's apology comes on the heels of a similar controversy involving Governor Ralph Northam, when a photo surfaced on Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page. The photo showed one man dressed in KKK garb and another in blackface.

After the photo went public, Herring joined other lawmakers asking for the Governor to resign.

On Monday's WAMU Kojo Nnamdi Show, Nnamdi asked Herring why he had called for Northam's resignation, when he was aware he had committed the same offense as a young man.

Herring said he struggled with a decision, but didn't call for Northam's resignation until after the governor changed his story regarding the photo.

"I was thinking that I needed to have a public reckoning for something I had done in my past," Herring said. "The next day the Governor came out with a different account- a contradictory account- which led to the evaporation of trust."

Both Herring and Northam have vowed to stay in their positions while fighting to earn back the public's trust. Herring, who is poised to run for governor, would not say whether he thought Northam should resign now.

"The governor's made up his mind," Herring said.

Herring says he's spent the past month trying to reconcile with people across the state, while working to heal the wounds of racism.

"I'm hearing from people that there might be a way to use my position and my personal experience in order to help advance all of those things, including talking about our history in a more honest way and have more honest dialogue," Herring said.