RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia House Republicans have announced plans to hold a meeting where Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and the two women who have accused him of sexual assault can testify. Republican Del. Rob Bell said Friday that the House Courts of Justice Committee plans to invite Vanessa Tyson, Meredith Watson and Fairfax for a “chance to be heard” at an unnamed future hearing date. The two women have recently come forward with allegations that Fairfax, a Democrat, sexually assaulted them years ago. Both women have criticized the General Assembly’s handling of their allegations. Fairfax has denied both accusations and said the matters should be investigated by law enforcement authorities. Friday’s announcement is likely to set off a fierce partisan brawl, as Democrats have strongly resisted calls for the General Assembly to investigate.
BRISTOL, Va. (AP) — Authorities say a woman hid her mother’s decomposing body inside their Virginia home for weeks, covering it with dozens of blankets and surrounding it with air fresheners to mask the smell.
News outlets report that 55-year-old Jo-Whitney Outland was charged with felony concealment of a body. Bristol police detective Sgt. Steve Crawford says the investigation began Monday when Outland’s relatives were concerned about 78-year-old Rosemary Outland. Investigators believe Rosemary Outland died in late December.
Crawford says authorities discovered the body propped up in a chair and covered with more than 50 blankets and pieces of clothing and over 60 air fresheners. He says medical examiners will confirm the identification and cause of death.
Jo-Whitney Outland told WJHL-TV on Thursday afternoon that she had covered her mother’s body out of respect.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Officials at a Virginia animal shelter say a dog was set on fire at a city park and suffered burns to over 40 percent of its body. Richmond Animal Care and Control says in a Facebook post that the male brindle pit bull was tied to a pole in a city park, covered in accelerant and set on fire Sunday night. It says witnesses saw a man wearing multiple layers of pants run from the scene. The shelter says the dog, which has been named Tommie, is being treated at Virginia Veterinary Centers. Shelter officials asked the public for any information that could identify the person responsible. They say not many cases rattle the shelter’s staff, but Tommie’s makes them “want to just sit on the floor and cry.”
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told his top staff Friday that he is not going to resign over the racist photo that has roiled state politics, despite intense pressure to step down, according to a top administration official. Northam called a Cabinet meeting Friday afternoon to announce his intention to stay, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The announcement comes at the end of an unprecedented week in Virginia history that has seen the state’s three top Democrats embroiled in potentially career-ending scandals.
The tumult began last Friday afternoon, when Northam’s medical school yearbook page surfaced with a picture of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam immediately apologized for appearing in the photograph, saying he could not “undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.” Most of the Democratic establishment called for his resignation by the end of the day.
On Saturday, though, the governor reversed course and said he wasn’t in the picture. He said he wasn’t going to resign immediately because he owed it to the people of Virginia to start a discussion about race and discrimination and listen to the pain he had caused. “I believe this moment can be the first small step to open a discussion about these difficult issues,” Northam said. But the governor left his long-term plans open, saying he would reassess his decision not to resign if it became clear he had no viable path forward.
The pressure on Northam reached a crescendo Saturday when almost the entire Virginia Democratic establishment, as well as nearly every Democratic presidential hopeful, called on him to resign. That pressure has tapered off as a cascade of scandals involving top politicians has rocked the state.
California college professor Vanessa Tyson publicly accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him at a hotel in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax, who would replace Northam if he resigned, has cast the allegations as a political smear. And Attorney General Mark Herring — in line to become governor if Northam and Fairfax resign — admitted putting on blackface in the 1980s, when he was a college student. Herring had previously called on Northam to resign and came forward after rumors about the existence of a blackface photo of him began circulating at the Capitol.
Although the Democratic Party has taken almost a zero-tolerance approach to misconduct among its members in this #MeToo era, a housecleaning in Virginia could be costly: If all three Democrats resigned, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.
Northam’s decision to stay in office comes despite many fellow Democrats in Virginia and beyond reiterating their calls for him to resign as recently as Friday. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a 2020 presidential hopeful, said Friday that he still thinks Northam should step down. “I think it dredges up very hurtful, painful things from the past. … I think he’s betrayed the public trust, and he should resign,” Booker said in response to a reporter’s question during an appearance in Iowa.
And in statements Thursday night, the state legislature’s Black Caucus and Virginia’s Democratic congressional delegation reiterated calls for the governor to step down, while the state House Democrats — who also previously called for Northam’s resignation — said they remain disappointed in him.
In a positive sign for Northam, even before he announced his plan to stay in the job, a lawmaker from Virginia’s Democratic-leaning D.C. suburbs said Friday he won’t call on the besieged governor to resign. “I will not request the Governor’s resignation,” State Sen. Chap Petersen, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Nor will I request any other official to resign until it is obvious that they have committed a crime in office or their ability to serve is irredeemably compromised.” There has also been little appetite among lawmakers to use official means to force him out. Cox, the House speaker, himself said Monday that there was “a rightful hesitation” among lawmakers to seek Northam’s impeachment or removal. He called on Northam to resign, saying “that would obviously be less pain for everyone.”
Regarding the allegation against Fairfax, the district attorney’s office in Boston declined to say whether it is investigating. Under Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations is 15 years for rape and several related crimes, an interval that would expire this summer for the woman’s accusation.___
Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston and Thomas Beaumont in Mason City, Iowa, contributed to this report.
Virginia Tech Professor Bob Denton and WFIR Political Analyst Bob Denton says the state’s three Democratic leaders are largely caught in a crossfire of their party’s own creation: the “me too” movement and identity politics largely intended to be used against Republicans. WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story:
Statement from Attorney General Mark Herring:
“The very bright light that is shining on Virginia right now is sparking a painful but, I think we all hope, important conversation. The stakes are high, and our spirits are low.
“I am sure we all have done things at one time or another in our lives that show poor judgment, and worse yet, have caused some level of pain to others. I have a glaring example from my past that I have thought about with deep regret in the many years since, and certainly each time I took a step forward in public service, realizing that my goals and this memory could someday collide and cause pain for people I care about, those who stood with me in the many years since, or those who I hoped to serve while in office.
“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song. It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.
“This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct.
That conduct clearly shows that, as a young man, I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.
Eastern Virginia Medical School is hiring an outside law firm to lead an independent investigation into past practices involving the school’s yearbooks. College President Richard Homan acknowledges the photo on Governor Northam’s 1984 page is not the only racist one found in their yearbooks over the years. WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The president of a medical school in Virginia has apologized for the pain inflicted on African Americans by a racist photo that appeared on a yearbook page belonging to Gov. Ralph Northam. Dr. Richard V. Homan told reporters Tuesday that Eastern Virginia Medical School takes full responsibility for the image and others that appeared in the 1984 publication. A photo on Northam’s yearbook profile shows a man in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. At least two other photos in the yearbook show people in blackface. Northam has denied he’s in the photo or that he submitted it for publication. Homan said an independent investigation will try to get to the bottom of how the images got there and will review all yearbooks.