Another Virginia Democrat Accused of Misconduct

Former Va. Gov. Wilder accused of sexual harassment

L. Douglas Wilder | VCU
March 28, 2019

Another high-ranking Virginia Democrat is facing accusations of misconduct.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that L. Douglas Wilder, the first African-American elected governor of Virginia, is accused of sexual harassment by a woman more than 60-years his junior.

Sydney Black, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, alleged the former governor attempted to kiss her without consent in 2017 while she was an office assistant at the university's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

Black alleges the harassment occurred after Wilder took her dinner to celebrate her 20th birthday. According to Black's account, Wilder ordered alcohol for both of them during the meal, despite acknowledging she was underage. Afterward, Wilder extended an invite to his apartment, where the non-consensual kiss allegedly occurred.

"He reached over and put his hand on my right leg, and I just kind of looked at him, and as soon as I looked at him, he kissed me on my mouth," Black said. "I immediately jerked away."

Shortly after the incident, the former governor told Black that funding for her position at the Wilder School had run out. Wilder, who left the governorship in 1994 but remains involved in Virginia politics, is a distinguished professor at the school with an annual salary of $150,000.

VCU's campus police were first made aware of the incident in December. Black, who is herself African-American, told the Post she felt forced "to choose" between "being a woman" or "being black" when deciding to speak out. VCU has opened a Title IX investigation into the matter.

The allegations against Wilder come as Virginia's statewide Democratic leadership is embroiled in scandal. Gov. Ralph Northam has resisted widespread calls for his resignation since it was made public that his medical school yearbook page includes a photo of two individuals in racist costumes—one in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan garb. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, initially praised by Democrats as a worthy successor should Northam resign, faces his own allegations of sexual assault from two women. Meanwhile, Attorney General Mark Herring is also under fire for wearing blackface in the 1980s while in college.

Wilder had previously called on Northam to resign in the wake of his yearbook revelation, but has refrained from discussing the accusations against Fairfax.