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Virginia Republican senator was editor of yearbook that featured blackface and “N-word”

A third blackface scandal has hit Virginia politics.

by Rex Santus
Feb 7 2019, 8:29pm

Another scandal involving blackface has hit Virginia politics, the third in a week.

State Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., Republican Senate Majority Leader, was the editor for his college yearbook, which was filled with racist photos and slurs, according to a report from the Virginian-Pilot. The 1968 yearbook includes numerous images of men in blackface, slurs against black and Asian people, and an anti-Semitic joke, the Pilot reported.

“The only thing I’m talking about today is the budget,” Norment said Thursday when a Pilot reporter asked him about the yearbook. “I’m here to pass a budget today.”

The yearbook includes at least two photos of students in blackface: one of a student posing at a party and another showing two men holding a football, according to the Pilot. In another photo, the caption refers to a student as “the Barracks Jew” for “having his fingers in the finances of the entire Corps.” The “N-word,” according to the Pilot, is used at least once, and a student from Thailand is referred to as being a “chink” and a “jap.”

Norment did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment, but he released a statement to the Pilot.

“With 114 editions of The Bomb available online dating back to 1885, I am not surprised that those wanting to engulf Republican leaders in the current situations involving the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General would highlight the yearbook from my graduation a half century ago ... Despite all of the distractions from the continuing controversies involving our statewide elected officials, I am intent on fulfilling the work of the people of Virginia by passing a fiscally responsible budget that provides tax relief for working families,” Norment said.

Norment is at least the third prominent Virginia politician to face backlash over his past involving blackface in just the last week. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said he would not resign — despite calls from prominent Democrats, including Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — after images surfaced of his 1984 medical school yearbook page showing someone in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. Northam denied he was either person in the photo, although he did admit to wearing blackface at another event around the same time, and he apologized.

On Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, also a Democrat, publicly disclosed that he wore blackface at a college party in 1980, after he convened an urgent meeting with the state’s black caucus.

On top of that, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax, is facing disturbing allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

"What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault," Fairfax’s accuser, Vanessa Tyson, said in a statement Wednesday. "Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head toward his crotch."

Northam, Fairfax, and Herring are Virginia’s top three politicians in the line of succession, respectively. If all three were to resign, House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican, who narrowly won control of the chamber through random drawing, would assume the governor’s office.

VICE News reached out to Cox to ask if he has ever worn blackface. “The last seven days have been tumultuous for our Commonwealth. The revelations against, and admissions by, the leaders of the executive branch are disturbing,” Cox said in a statement sent to VICE News that did not answer the question.

Cover image: Virginia state Sen. Thomas Norment, R-James City County, listens to debate during the Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Norment was an editor of the 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook that included a blackface photo and racially offensive language. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)