RICHMOND — The Republican Party of Virginia is offering a $1,000 reward for a photograph of Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) in blackface.
The party announced the offer Tuesday, one day after Herring said on a radio interview that he is not sure if any photos were taken when he dressed in blackface for a college party in 1980.
“Herring stated that he spoke with ‘college friends’ about his appearance in blackface and double checked if anyone had photo evidence of his indiscretions,” the state GOP said in a news release. “Herring claims to not know if there is a photo, but does anyone really believe him?”
Herring spokesman Michael Kelly responded to a request for comment with one word: “Seriously?”
The offer of a reward comes during a state election year in which Virginia Republicans have made it clear that they plan to highlight recent scandals that have embroiled Herring and the state’s other two top Democrats, Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
On Feb. 1, a racist photo came to light from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page, depicting one person in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes. Northam initially took responsibility for the picture. At a news conference a day later, he said he wasn’t in the photo but admitted that he put shoe polish on his cheeks to imitate Michael Jackson in a dance contest later that same year.
Herring called on Northam to resign on Feb. 2, as did many state and national Democrats. But four days later, the attorney general admitted that he darkened his own skin to dress as rapper Kurtis Blow in 1980, when he was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Virginia.
Herring made the admission hours after an Associated Press reporter informed Kelly that someone had described in detail a photo of Herring in blackface.
Meanwhile, within a week of Northam and Herring admitting to their blackface episodes, two women came forward to accuse Fairfax of sexual assaulting them in the early 2000s; he denies the allegations.
On Monday, in his first interview since he admitted to wearing blackface in 1980, Herring told WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi that he was not sure if any photo exists. He also said he came forward on his own, dismissing the idea that media inquiries had forced his hand.
Herring announced in December that he plans to run for governor in 2021. Asked by Nnamdi if he was still a candidate, Herring said he hasn’t been thinking about it.
No photo of Herring has ever surfaced — a fact that has helped Herring shore up support among some Democrats, who said they appreciated that Herring came forward with a confession and took responsibility for his actions.
“To be frank with you, I was expecting there to be a picture to follow his announcement,” Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), chairman of the Black Caucus, said in an interview last month. “The fact that there wasn’t a picture leads me to give him the benefit of the doubt that, as he told the Black Caucus, it was weighing on him and he felt the urgency to share it.”
Democrats who called for Northam’s resignation largely held their fire when it came to Herring — partly because if Herring stepped down, the GOP-controlled General Assembly would choose his replacement, and partly because by then, the state’s entire executive branch was engulfed in scandal.