The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How a former Virginia lawmaker made a bad situation even worse, in 1 picture

Let’s dissect this, shall we?

To the right stands former Virginia delegate Joe Morrissey, 57, a Democrat running for a Virginia state Senate seat as an Independent after Democratic Party officials rejected his attempt to seek office. Joining Morrissey are his 19-year-old receptionist, Myrna Pride, and their 9-week-old son Chase, a child Morrissey publicly acknowledged as his son for the first time Wednesday.

The image shows Morrissey, who is white, and Pride, who is black, in what some reporters have described as “period” dress — without mention of the fact that said period would appear to be the antebellum South or that said photo was taken in Virginia Beach, a city that sits about two hours from Richmond, the onetime capital of the Confederacy.

[Former Virginia lawmaker publicly admits paternity for the first time]

The picture also depicts Pride seated with Chase in her arms, gazing up at Morrissey. Morrissey returns Pride’s gaze from several feet above, with a hand planted firmly on Pride’s shoulder.

While a biracial family's antebellum-themed photo may raise eyebrows under any circumstances, this one carries additional meaning. On Wednesday, Morrissey told a Richmond radio show audience that Chase was conceived when Pride was 18. Last year, Morrissey pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in connection with his relationship with Pride — while she was 17 — but denied the original charges. Prosecutors initially charged Morrissey with multiple felonies, alleging that he had sex with Pride while a minor and shared nude photos of her.

In December, Morrissey agreed to a plea deal on a misdemeanor charge in which he admitted no guilt and avoided conviction on the felony charges.

He agreed to serve a six-month jail term that was reduced to a 90-day work-release sentence. Morrissey resigned from the House as a Democrat and later declared himself an independent candidate for his old seat. After easily winning back his seat, he left office this year to run for state Senate.

The Post typically does not identify victims of sexual crimes, but Pride, who is now 19, gave The Post her permission to be named.

The family photo first became public when Morrissey shared it with a Richmond-area television reporter May 14. When asked whether the photo amounted to confirmation that Chase is his son, Morrissey offered a definitive, “no.” Then, on Wednesday, during a discussion about the image on WLEE (990 AM) radio, Morrissey described Chase as his son.

Yes, that’s W ... L-E-E radio, in Richmond.

On Thursday, Morrissey also distributed copies of the photo at a news conference and informed reporters that he and Pride plan to marry.

Enough said.