Warner: 'Very Challenging' for Virginia Democrats to Have Northam, Fairfax Still in Office

March 3, 2019

Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) on Sunday said it's been "very challenging" for Virginia Democrats in dealing with the scandals surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, but he argued the state's top Democrats should be given the opportunity to re-earn the trust of Virginians.

"[T]here needs to be a due process," Warner said during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union."

Host Jake Tapper asked Warner how "embarrassing" it was for him as a Virginia Democrat to see two of the top Democrats in the state still in office after they became enveloped in scandal last month. Northam admitted to wearing blackface while in medical school after a yearbook photo drew scrutiny, and Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault by two women.

"As somebody who spent 20 years trying to build a brand about Virginia Democrats, candidly Virginia, where we most recently won the award of the Amazon headquarters, it's been very challenging," Warner said. "But if the governor and lieutenant governor are going to continue ... there needs to be a due process, where the accusers get a chance to make their case and the lieutenant governor gets a chance to make his defense."

He went on to say that if Northam is going to stay in office, then he needs to get out and re-earn the trust of Virginians. Warner said when he and Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) initially called on Northam to resign, they believed he lost the faith of Virginians.

"He has a right to try to regain that faith, but I believe that would involve him getting out and making that case directly with Virginians," Warner said.

"But just yes or no, you still think they should still both step down?" Tapper asked.

"I think we've made our ... call weeks ago. Both of these gentlemen, if they're going to stay, there needs to be a process in place so they can go about trying to re-earn the faith of Virginians," Warner said.

Northam apologized for the picture after it was released, saying he was "sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo." However, He denied being in the photo during a press conference the day after it was released, saying he instead darkened his skin once while dressed up as Michael Jackson. Democrats from each wing of the party called on Northam to resign, but he has refused to step down. Within days of Northam's scandal, Virginia's attorney general Mark Herring admitted that he wore blackface once at a college party in 1980.

Fairfax was accused of sexually assaulting one woman in 2004 at a hotel during the Democratic National Convention, and another woman accused him of raping her in 2000 while they were students at Duke University.