‘Virginians and people across the country deserve better from their leaders…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez is understandably responsible for putting a positive spin on the party’s message.
But as scandal embroiled Virginia’s top three Democrats on Thursday, those spins turned into back-flips.
The commonwealth’s current leadership crisis touched on at least two crucial topics that Democrats over the past couple years have trumpeted and demanded public figures be held accountable for: racism and sexual assault.
In an interview Wednesday with an Indianapolis Fox affiliate, however, Perez struggled to distance and extricate himself—and the DNC—from any moral culpability, saying it was up to the state-level Democrats to pass judgment and determine the consequences.
“I have continued to have conversations with people inside Virginia, leaders there, because I think it’s really important when situations of this nature arise to make sure I’m having conversations with people who are truly on the front lines,” Perez said.
The saga began when Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was revealed to have included on his medical school yearbook page a photograph of two individuals—one in blackface and the other in Ku Klux Klan regalia.
After Big League Politics broke the story, Northam seemed to acknowledge that he was one of the two (without saying which), eliciting nearly universal calls for his resignation from members of both political parties.
To his credit, Perez was among them.
JUST IN: DNC Chair Tom Perez calls for Gov. Northam to resign: “Virginians and people across the country deserve better from their leaders, and it is clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern.” pic.twitter.com/rvgWHrtXB5
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) February 2, 2019
But after recanting his confession in a bizarre press conference last weekend, Northam has since resisted the resignation calls and thus far dodged accountability, while few seem to be pressing the issue any farther.
From a political standpoint, Democrats’ condemnation of Northam hinged on the fact that his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, was an even more radical progressive, with the added benefit of being black.
Those reassurances came crashing down, however, when sexual-assault allegations surfaced against Fairfax, which he initially denied before acknowledging that a “consensual” encounter took place during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
In some ways, the allegations closely mirrored those raised against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last fall, although they were more detailed and recent than the Kavanaugh claims, with several other factors making them a more credible case.
But while Christine Blasey Ford‘s uncorroborated accusations and the corresponding #MeToo movement saw Democrats demanding that sexual-assault victims be given the benefit of the doubt, Perez sang a somewhat different tune for Fairfax.
Although still appearing to uphold the “Believe women” mantra, Perez hypocritically downplayed Fairfax accuser Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s charges of forcible fellatio, referring to them euphemistically as “sexual misconduct.”
“Anytime a woman comes forward with an allegation of, uh, sexual misconduct we take those seriously and she must always be treated with respect, and the person accused must always be treated with the appropriate due process,” Perez said.
Unfortunately, conservative demands for precisely that fell on deaf ears during the Kavanaugh hearing, where “due process” and “presumption of innocence” against the dubious claims were, in some instances, aggressively mocked and dismissed on the Left.
Rather than condemn the calls from people like Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, that men needed to “shut up,” Perez instead blamed the manufactured rape crisis on “toxic masculinity,” going so far as to declare himself a “feminist” in a softball interview last October with the liberal blog Quartz.
By contrast, Perez told Fox 59 on Wednesday that he didn’t have all the facts yet on the Fairfax accusations. “I’m a big believer in trying to do my best and do due diligence before making judgments of that nature,” he said.
The Fairfax double-speak was not the first time Perez was called out for his disingenuous rhetoric over women’s sexual assault. His own former deputy, Rep. Keith Ellison, now the attorney general of Minnesota, also escaped accountability last year for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
When pressed by CNN’s Jake Tapper as to whether Ellison accuser Karen Monahan should be given the benefit of the doubt, Perez quickly deflected.
As questions over succession arose this week, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, third in line for the governorship, came forward Wednesday to acknowledge that he, like Northam, had worn blackface during the 1980s.
At the time, there was little public condemnation of it, with major film releases like 1986’s “Soul Man” using blackface as a vehicle for comedy. In more recent years, however, the blackface act has been associated with racist minstrel shows of the Jim Crow era that perpetuated negative stereotypes and caricatured the entire race.
Controversies, regardless of the intentions behind them, have ensnared everyone from elementary school teachers to college students to Hollywood celebrities.
Simply defending the use of blackface in Halloween costumes resulted in “Today” show co-host Megyn Kelly being drummed out in disgrace last year.
And in a recent opinion piece for the Arizona Republic, one black restaurant patron declared that it was even inappropriate for the establishment to have an old photograph of Welsh mine workers covered in coal dust because it made him uncomfortable.
But again, on the topic of blackface, Perez avoided taking a direct stance criticizing Herring.
“The black caucus of Virginia has been meeting with the attorney general today, and I haven’t had the opportunity because I’ve been going from meeting to meeting to get a read-out of those meetings to see what is their sense of the, uh, appropriate course of action,” he said.
Even more brazenly, Perez tried to put a positive spin on the attorney general’s actions. He commended Herring for pro-actively coming forward with the potentially disqualifying scandal, ignoring the fact that Virginia’s top two officials had done the exact opposite with denials and stonewalling.
“I was heartened by Attorney General Herring’s acknowledgement—affirmative acknowledgement—of what he’d done in the past and why it was wrong and his coming forward to apologize and atone,” Perez said.
‘Antithetical to What We Stand For’
Of course, even when Perez was criticizing the Virginia Democrats’ conduct, he somehow managed to slip an abject falsehood in the place of a mea culpa.
“The revelations involving the governor and the attorney general, um, are antithetical to what we stand for in the Democratic Party,” he said.
Historical scholars, on the other hand, would contend that it was the Southern Democratic Party of yore, in Virginia and other states, that fostered the racist attitudes of Jim Crow and the KKK in the first place, even after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
During school integration efforts, powerful Democratic politicians in Virginia, such as Sen. Harry Byrd, led a campaign of massive resistance that lasted into the early 1970s.
West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, who had been a KKK member and had filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, went on to become the longest serving Democrat in the Senate. As President pro tempore, he was third in line for the presidency, after Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when he died in 2010.
Less than a decade later, acknowledgement and atonement seem to be the last things on Perez’s mind.
“These things have no place in the Democratic Party, and that’s why we take them so seriously,” he said.