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This afternoon, Virginia's attorney general admitted to wearing blackface in the past, while an accuser detailed her sexual assault allegations against the state's lieutenant governor.

Expand chart
Diagram: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The big picture: In decades past, these allegations might not have ever become public. Now, they're impossible to dismiss. And that's not just true for public officials.

  • High-profile business leaders are being warned to run an opposition-research scan on themselves, as if they were political candidates, to search for problematic yearbook and other images from the past.
  • That advice, reported by the Wall Street Journal, reflects a sudden surge in attention to racism and #MeToo accusations, some going back decades.

Be smart: In corporations, this new scrutiny is expected to extend to new hires of senior talent, a PR executive told the WSJ.

  • "As a best practice, companies should be doing background checks on all senior level and board hires, digging in 25 years or more. 'You have to go back both virtually and physically,' [the exec] said, identifying 'high school and college activities, fraternities, nicknames, everything.'"

The bottom line: This isn't just a problem from the past, and it's not just confined to the old south.

  • Jan. 24, 2019: "Florida secretary of state resigns after photos reveal he wore blackface" (Axios)
  • Jan. 22, 2019: "University of Oklahoma says students involved in blackface video 'will not return to campus'" (CNN)
  • April 11, 2018: "Blackface Leads to Fraternity Suspension at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo" (NYT)
  • Oct. 3, 2016: "Pennsylvania College Students Suspended Over Blackface Video" (Reuters)

P.S. Fallout over blackface isn't just limited to those who wear the offensive garb. NBC host Megyn Kelly's show was canceled last year after she said she didn't know why wearing blackface was seen as racist.

Go deeper: Virginia's 3 highest ranking state officials all land in hot water

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

8 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.

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