×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spike Lee on Virginia’s Political Turmoil: ‘Black Shoe Polish Is in High Demand’

WASHINGTON — Spike Lee, at a D.C. screening of his Oscar-nominated “BlacKkKlansman,” weighed in on the revelations that Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, and attorney general, Mark Herring, wore blackface to parties in their college years.

“Black shoe polish is in high demand,” Lee told reporters when asked about the controversy, before chuckling at the ironic comment.

BlacKkKlansman” is the story of Ron Stallworth, who, in the 1970s, was first African-American officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department and went undercover to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, directing and writing nods for Lee.

He told an audience at the Newseum screening that “why this film is a success is we connected the past with the present.” The film ends with real-life footage from the riots in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017, triggered by marches staged by racist groups.

The more recent controversy has put Virginia’s politics in turmoil.

Lee said that he thought it “is going to be very hard” for Northam to continue serving as governor. He faced widespread calls from Democrats and Republicans to resign last week after the revelation that his 1984 medical school yearbook entry contained a picture of someone in blackface standing next to someone in a white-hooded KKK outfit.

Northam apologized, but in a press conference on Saturday, he said that he did not believe that he was one of the people in the photo. However, he admitted that he did appear in a darkened face to pose as Michael Jackson for a dance contest in 1984.

On Monday, Attorney General Mark Herring, who is third in line to the governorship, said that he wore blackface to a college party in 1980.

In the wake of the furor over the revelations, Lee said, “Every politician today had their aides and assistants go find their high school, college, law school, med school yearbook. I put money at that happening.”

“Some of that stuff happened a long time ago, so you don’t exactly remember what kind of shenanigans you have done for your picture,” he added. “And I would like to say that when the picture is in the yearbook is what was under your name, it is what you wanted. It is not just they picked something. … However you looked like, that was your decision.”

Asked whether he is surprised that the revelations did not come out during one of their political campaigns, Lee said, “Now people are much more sensitive. That is what I said earlier. People are scrambling today to get their yearbook pictures.”

He said he had not been following the controversy involving another top Virginia elected official, its lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman, Vanessa Tyson, in 2004. Fairfax denies the allegation.

The Congressional Black Caucus co-hosted the “BlacKkKlansman” screening, and Lee appeared on a panel that was moderated by Van Jones with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who chairs the caucus, and American Urban Radio Networks’ Washington bureau chief April Ryan.

One topic was top of mind: President Trump’s State of the Union address.

Lee called out the president for introducing Holocaust survivors and D-Day veterans, even though he said after Charlottesville that there were “very fine people, on both sides” of the riots. Politicians on the left and the right chided Trump for making the equivalence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists to counter-protesters.

“He didn’t write the script” for the State of the Union, Lee said. “Somebody wrote the script. So obviously to me that is a terrible misdeed if you do not see the connection, because in Charlottesville [Trump] did not denounce — there were Swastikas everywhere. He didn’t do it.”

He added, “It is my belief, as this reign of terror is over, and historians go back, they are going to go, ‘There is a lot of shit he says, but what he said about Charlottesville, that is not going to even be on the first page. That is going to be in the prologue.'”

More Politics

  • Attorney General Says Mueller Report Redactions

    Attorney General William Barr Defends Trump, Says Mueller Report Redactions Will Be 'Limited'

    WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr, in a press conference in advance of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, said that the redactions will be limited. But speaking to reporters on Thursday, Barr also offered what amounted to a defense of President Trump’s conduct as Mueller’s investigation unfolded, in what Democrats and other [...]

  • Feu cath'drale Notre Dame de Paris.

    Disney Pledges $5 Million to Help Rebuild Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral

    The Walt Disney Co. has joined a number of other companies in pledging $5 million towards the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, the iconic Paris landmark damaged this week by a massive fire. Disney CEO Bob Iger said the cathedral, which featured in the company’s 1996 animated adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” was [...]

  • Tom Zigo MPAA

    Tom Zigo Joins MPAA as Communications Director

    WASHINGTON — Tom Zigo is joining the MPAA as its new communications director. Zigo will report to Chris Ortman, the MPAA’s chief spokesperson and senior vice president of communications. Zigo previously worked for Precision Strategies, the firm that was co-founded by Stephanie Cutter, Jen O’Malley Dillon and Teddy Goff. He worked on strategy for clients [...]

  • President Donald Trump listens to a

    White House Refuses to Turn Over AT&T-Time Warner Records to House Democrats

    WASHINGTON — The White House is refusing to turn over records of communications related to the AT&T-Time Warner merger after House Democrats demanded such information, prompted by New Yorker report that President Trump had ordered advisers to pressure the Justice Department to block the deal. Pat Cipollone, the counsel to the president, wrote that such [...]

  • Pete Buttigieg Show Business Donations

    Ryan Reynolds, James Murdoch Among Pete Buttigieg's Showbiz Donors

    When Pete Buttigieg officially announced his campaign for president over the weekend, more than a few showbiz personalities weighed in to comment on the history being made. Ellen DeGeneres wrote on Twitter, “These words make me very, very happy. ‘My name is @petebuttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am a proud son of South [...]

  • Tiger Woods Masters

    Trump to Award Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom After Masters Victory

    President Donald Trump announced he will give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods after the golfer won the Masters Tournament for the fifth time ever and the first since 2005. Woods will join Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charles Sifford as the only golfers to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Spoke to [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content