Virginia Leadership in Political Turmoil

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring have all come under fire after alleged controversial events from their pasts recently surfaced.

On Feb. 1, The Virginian-Pilot published a photo from Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook that featured one person dressed in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan (KKK) garb. Northam issued an apology later that night, acknowledging that he was one of the individuals in the photo, without confirming which one. The next morning, Northam retracted his admission, stating that upon further reflection with former classmates, he concluded he was not the person in the photo.

Two women accused Fairfax, who is Virginia’s second black politician elected to statewide office, of sexual assault. Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps College (Calif.), said Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004 at the Democratic National Committee convention in Boston. Fairfax said his encounter with Tyson was “100 percent consensual,” according to The New York Times. Meredith Watson alleged that Fairfax assaulted her in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University (N.C.).

Herring, third in line to become governor, admitted to wearing blackface during a college party in the 1980s. Herring said he and his friends dressed up as their favorite rap artists by putting on “wigs and brown makeup.” In his apology, Herring said that it was a one-time incident.

Despite harsh criticism and calls for resignation within the Democratic party, the three have not indicated any plans to step down. If all three politicians were to leave office, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.

Supreme Court Blocks Restrictive State Abortion Law

The U.S. Supreme Court placed a temporary stay on a 2014 Louisiana law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which would have left the state with minimum abortion resources for women, according to the Times. The law, if upheld, would have closed nearly all of Louisiana’s abortion clinics. In the 5-to-4 decision, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four-member liberal wing in blocking the law. Roberts’ vote is a reversal of his prior decision in a 2016 case, in which he voted with the dissent to uphold a similar abortion law in Texas.

Jimmy Carter Wins Third Grammy Award

Former U.S. President and Emory Distinguished Professor Jimmy Carter won his third Grammy award in the spoken word album category last Sunday night for his audiobook “Faith: A Journey for All.”

At 94 years old, Carter is the third-oldest winner in Grammy history behind comedian George Burns and pianist Pinetop Perkins. Carter won his first two Grammy awards in the same category in 2016 for “A Full Life: Reflections at 90” and in 2007 for “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis.” He has been nominated nine times for the award.

Former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are the only other former presidents to receive a Grammy.

Rapper 21 Savage Released on Bond

Rapper 21 Savage will be released from immigration detention on Wednesday, Feb. 13, after receiving a $100,000 bond, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). The rapper was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after the agency discovered that he is a U.K. citizen who overstayed his visa.

21 Savage’s release comes after increasing national attention surrounding his case. The musician was nominated for the 2019 Grammy Awards, where he was scheduled to perform the hit song “Rockstar” with Post Malone but could not attend the ceremony because of his detainment.