The top Democrats in Virginia have announced that they will boycott an anniversary ceremony Tuesday in Jamestown due to President Donald Trump’s presence. Two of the top three Democrats in the state admitted to wearing blackface, while the third has faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
What happened now?
On Tuesday, a ceremony will take place to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first representative legislative assembly in the Americas. President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to speak at this event in Jamestown, Virginia.
Virginia House Democrats had already said that they would boycott the event over Trump’s presence. On Monday, the state’s Democratic legislative caucus and Black Legislative Caucus announced that they would also not be attending.
In a July 19 statement, state Democratic leaders said that they were not attending “any part of the commemorative session” because “[t]he current President does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest Democratic body in the western world.”
They added, “We offer just three words of advice to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation: ‘Send Him Back’.”
While Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam did not weigh in, his spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said that it was “ironic the president would attend, given his recent attack on immigrants” since the Jamestown settlers were themselves immigrants.
What’s the background?
Northam, Virginia’s top Democrat, was embroiled in a racial controversy of his own. A photo in Northam’s yearbook showed someone in Ku Klux Klan garb standing next to someone in blackface. While Northam initially apologized for this, he later claimed that he did not know who the people in the picture were. He also volunteered without prompting that he had worn blackface on another occasion.
Initially, state Democratic leaders called for Northam to resign, but it soon became clear that the next two highest Democrats also had problems of their own. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was beset by allegations of sexual misconduct, and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he also wore blackface.
If all three of these men had resigned, the governorship would have gone to the speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, Republican Kirk Cox. Calls for Northam to resign faded.