“What we have is a very compelling and detailed statement of a serious, serious charge by a respected professional, and we also have a very unequivocal denial of that charge from someone we know real well,” Mr. Kaine said.
That cautious approach was echoed by other leading national Democrats, who called for an investigation rather than Mr. Fairfax’s resignation, while stating that Dr. Tyson’s claims should be taken seriously.
“I thought her story was deeply disturbing and credible so there must be an investigation,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a 2020 presidential candidate who was one of the first major Democrats to call for the ouster of former Senator Al Franken, said on a podcast Wednesday night.
Senator Kamala Harris of California, another presidential hopeful, called Dr. Tyson’s claims “credible” and said there should be an inquiry.
Mr. Fairfax, who has regularly stopped to speak with reporters in recent days, rushed through the State Capitol on Thursday morning. Ignoring questions about Dr. Tyson, he said only that he was headed to a Senate session and that he had spoken with Mr. Northam.
At midday Thursday, the allegations involving racist history spread to Republicans for the first time when The Virginian-Pilot first reported that the Senate majority leader, Thomas K. Norment Jr., helped oversee a Virginia Military Institute yearbook that featured racist photographs and slurs, including blackface.
Mr. Norment, 72, who has been a state senator since 1992, was a managing editor of the yearbook, called The Bomb, in 1968. The yearbook includes photographs showing students in blackface and includes slurs against African-Americans, Asians and Jews, according to pages from the book that were viewed by The New York Times.
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