New York Times reporter Campbell Robertson was puzzled: “‘It Just Went Poof’: Virginia Scandals Fade Into Surreal Normalcy.” He wondered on Wednesday's front page how the February scandals of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, accused of posing either in a Klan hood or blackface while in medical school, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, accused by two women of sexual assault, have somehow faded into the ethe, after it seemed their scandals would bring down the Virginia Democratic Party.
Actually there’s no mystery: It’s because the politicians are Democrats, and Republicans threaten to take over the Virginia General Assembly in November 2020. Reporters have little incentive to shine the spotlight back onto the controversies. So much for the supposed "zero tolerance” for wrongdoing that the Times ridiculously gave Democrats credit for:
More than a dozen state lawmakers filed onto the stage, summoned by the smiling leader of their state: Ralph S. Northam, the governor of Virginia....This is the strange, suspended state of Virginia politics, just two months after scandal after scandal seemed to be devouring the state’s government from the top down.
Robertson set the scene:
In the space of a week in early February, the public was stunned by revelations about each of the three highest statewide elected officials, all Democrats: the racist photo in the governor’s yearbook; accusations of sexual assault against the lieutenant governor; and the attorney general’s appearance in blackface at a party in college....And then? “It just went poof,” said Natalie Draper, a librarian sitting in the back of a coffeehouse last week in Richmond. “It’s like it never happened.”
Virginians have various theories as to how this surreal normalcy set in.
But skipped the obvious ones. Instead, Robertson found reasons (some would say excuses) for the Democratic behavior, without condemning it:
For the Democrats, perhaps above all, there are the blunt political realities. Whatever may happen in the 2021 election for governor, every seat in the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly will be up this November, and Democrats have a chance to take back power in at least one chamber of the legislature. That will be hard enough now, given the bales of fodder Republicans now have for attack ads. But the idea of trying to raise money and hold rallies while spurning the three highest officeholders in the state came to be seen by many Democrats as just a needless handicap.
The word “hypocrisy” didn’t appear in the story. So much for the Democrats being just too tough on themselves, a theme the paper has harped on ever since Sen. Al Franken was pushed out for groping. Robertson never addressed the turnaround though he provided ample evidence of Democrats making political excuses, hemming and hawing, and otherwise avoiding the controversy.
Lt. Gov. Fairfax, accused of sexual assault, was given a platform to make himself the victim:
Mr. Fairfax began with praise for Ms. Height’s “oratory around the issue of anti-lynching,” but it quickly became clear he was also talking about other matters.
“She saw what was happening in this country, where people were being falsely accused,” Mr. Fairfax said. “They were not given due process. They were having their lives in so many ways impacted negatively, in some ways taken away, because people wanted not to get to the truth but ultimately wanted things changed in a negative way for nefarious reasons.” Robertson barely blinked when a local NAACP “crowd erupted in cheers of support” after a similar rant.
If Robertson disapproved of such grandstanding, or the Democrats’ abrupt tossing of concern for allegations of sexual violence (even after their fits over Brett Kavanaugh!) he didn’t let on.
Robertson simply threw up his hands regarding the Fairfax charges:
....Republican lawmakers announced plans for an investigative hearing, and both accusers have said repeatedly that they are willing to testify publicly as part of a bipartisan process, but Democratic lawmakers have balked, seeing such a hearing as a fruitless exercise prone to partisan grandstanding. At this point, there are few other obvious options.
This was 180 degrees from the flattering way The Times displayed Democrats under fire for sex scandals not long ago -- even involving their supposed "zero tolerance” for the Virginia scandals themselves. A ridiculous February 4 front-page story by Jonathan Martin sported headlines that are even more laughable now: “Pushed by Trump, Opponents Try to Set Example -- There’s Zero Tolerance for Bad Behavior in Their Ranks.” The online headline: “Trump Behaves One Way on Race. Democrats Demand Better From Their Own.”
It was just another example of how The Times tries to convince people, after decades of Democrats celebrating the corrupt Hillary Clinton and sex-scandal plagued two-term hero Bill Clinton, that the party now occupies some moral high ground. But now that the Democrats themselves aren’t cooperating, it’s merely a “surreal” puzzle.