An MSNBC panel discussion Thursday about the repercussions of Democrats’ ongoing meltdown in Virginia state politics included the declaration that blackface is as bad as sexual assault and the contention that the accused and the accuser in a sexual assault case "are both victims."
The three major problems faced by the Democratic Party in Virginia are the unconnected scandals roiling the top statewide officeholders. Gov. Ralph Northam and the two men in the line to succeed him as governor are all dealing with calls to resign, leaving Democrats with a quandary about how to keep power.
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Radio host Mark Thompson suggested the three scandals are equivalent. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is accused of the violent crime of sexual assault, and Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are dealing with the fallout of wearing blackface in the 1980s.
Looming above the current scandals is the united front Democrats formed to condemn Brett Kavanaugh for the uncorroborated sexual assault allegation he faced during his Supreme Court confirmation fight last year. With Fairfax in situation that's being compared to Kavanaugh's, Thompson argued the considerations are different because of Fairfax’s race.
"What do you do with it if it's a he said/she said?" host Stephanie Ruhle asked Thompson.
"If it boils down to Justin Fairfax having to resign and the two blackface people don't, then those very same people will say, now wait a minute, that's sort of a double standard," Thompson said.
"But hold on a second—sexual assault is a crime, and blackface is awful, but it's not a crime," Ruhle said.
"Well, but the calls have been for them to resign too," Thompson replied.
"But those are two different things," Ruhle said.
"You have double victimization," Thompson went on. "You have [Fairfax’s accuser Vanessa Tyson] as an African-American woman being victimized. Then you have an African-American elected official with an enormous black vote in Virginia, he has to pay a price nobody else does."
"Yeah, but he'd be paying a price for something different than what the other two would be paying for," Ruhle continued.
Thompson argued it was relevant that the "original crime" was committed by Northam, an apparent reference to the fact his yearbook photo was the first report to rock Virginia.
"It would be different … but the original crime was blackface on the part of Northam," Thompson said.
"Which is awful, but it's not a crime," Ruhle said.
"Well, it's a crime to us as black people," Thompson said.
"Okay, okay," Ruhle said, dropping the issue.
Later, Thompson argued that if the Fairfax matter isn’t resolved with an investigation, it affects "two African Americans," since the accuser is also black.
"That are both victims here," Ruhle said.
Thompson added that it would be better if both white politicians also resign because Virginia might not remain a blue state if they drive away black voters.
"It affects the black vote, which no Democrat running for office in Virginia or no president who needs Virginia to remain blue can afford to lose. So maybe the solution is everybody just resigns. Before that, Herring appoints his deputy to succeed him. She ascends to the governorship, and she's a black woman: Cynthia Hudson."
Law professor Jessica Levinson was also in the segment arguing against the utility of the presumption of innocence. She said there was corroborating evidence supporting the story of Kavanaugh’s accuser "at the time," but that is misleading, since Ford only claims to have told people about the incident in 2012. The woman Ford said was at the party at the time of the alleged assault said she had no memory of the incident.
"There was other evidence other than what frankly I think the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to set it up as, as a he said/she said," Levinson said of the Kavanaugh allegations, without citing any evidence.
Tyson alleges Fairfax sexually assaulted her in a private hotel room where there were no potential witnesses. Fairfax said this week that he and Tyson had a "consensual encounter."
"Now, in a courtroom, in a court of law, the burden of proof of course is on the prosecutor to say, ‘this happened beyond a reasonable doubt.’ But we can all use our common sense and say it makes all the sense in the world that there might not be other evidence," Levinson said. "If this [Fairfax’s alleged incident] happened privately in a hotel room, we should not take the fact that there’s no corroborating evidence to mean it didn’t happen."