Political News

Virginia Senate majority leader distances himself from racist content in yearbook he edited

Posted February 8, 2019 11:06 a.m. EST

— Virginia's Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment distanced himself Thursday from racist content in a decades-old Virginia Military Institute yearbook he edited.

Norment, a Republican, was the managing editor of "The Bomb" in 1968. A review of the yearbook by CNN found at least two photos of people in blackface and other racist content. Norment is not in any of the photos, which were first reported by The Virginian-Pilot.

The revelation of the racist content comes after a chaotic week for Democrats in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam is fighting to hold onto his job after he admitted and later denied that he appeared in a racist yearbook photo that was made public last week. At the same time, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairafx is struggling with allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which he has vehemently denied, and Attorney General Mark Herring is dealing with the fallout from his admission that he appeared in blackface during a party in 1980.

Norment said in a statement that he "cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page" but drew a distinction between the controversy facing him and that of Northam and Herring, who admitted they appeared in blackface.

"The use of blackface is abhorrent in our society and I emphatically condemn it," Norment said in a statement. "However, I am not in any of the photos referenced on pages 82 or 122, nor did I take any of the photos in question."

He added: "With 114 editions of The Bomb available online dating back to 1885, I am not surprised that those wanting to engulf Republican leaders in the current situations involving the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General would highlight the yearbook from my graduation a half century ago."

Norment has received comparatively little political blowback so far on the racist photos, especially from Democrats, who are consumed by the scandals engulfing their top three statewide officerholders.

"Senator Norment has emphatically condemned the racist and abhorrent photos in the yearbook, as do I," said Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox. "None of the photos include him, he's spoken to his role as a member of the yearbook staff and shared his views on the admissions policy. It's unfair to compare assisting in the production of a yearbook to the other revelations from this week."