Virginia prosecutor regrets ‘hateful tone’ toward Northam over monuments

rappannock confederate monument
The Confederate monument in Rappahannock County, Virginia, stands in front of the courthouse. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

The Rappahannock County prosecutor who had declared “total hatred” for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over the Confederate monument issue — and accused him of “being dragged around by the pubic hair by the commie left of his party” — told WTOP he is sorry about his choice of words.

In a June 4 posting on his personal Facebook page, Commonwealth’s Attorney Arthur L. Goff was critical of Northam’s order to remove the statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond.

Referring to Northam as a “slimy, pandering politician,” Goff said: “Mark my words, Ralph Northam is the clarion of the international commie left. He is no longer worthy of the honor of being called a Virginian.”

When contacted by WTOP on Monday morning — more than two weeks after the posting on his personal Facebook page — the county’s elected prosecutor said he had second thoughts about the terms he used.

“I do regret the hateful tone of of my post, not the sentiment, but the use of crass and crude ‘sailor talk,’ as my wife terms it,” Goff said in an email. “She was not happy with my choice of words.”

But, as of early Monday afternoon, that original post remained on his Facebook page.

Rappahannock County — bordered by Fauquier, Culpeper and Madison counties — has a population of approximately 7,370 people, according to Census estimates. Just over 92% of its residents are white.

Originally elected commonwealth’s attorney in 2012, the Republican ran unopposed in 2019, garnering almost 96% of the vote.

Asked if the tone of his post — with mentions of hatred and physical violence — might leave some with concern about getting a fair trial in Rappahannock County, Goff was clear: “As to fair trials, I can assure you that all get fair treatment from me — always have and always will. Any member of the defense bar who has had a case with me over the last two decades will tell you that.”

Goff continued: “When I posted, I was deeply angered by what I perceive to be the lawlessness and caving in to mob demands for destruction of very important monuments on the part of the governor without regard to the feelings and opinions of the whole people of Virginia.”

On the grounds of the Rappahannock County Circuit Courthouse stands a Confederate monument, listing county soldiers who died in the Civil War. The monument was constructed and dedicated in the early 1900s.

A law, signed by Northam, allows individual localities to remove, relocate or contextualize Confederate statues and monuments within their communities, as of July 1.

Goff was asked whether he and his constituents would consider altering the white marble obelisk.

“I think most people in Rappahannock County would not support removal of any monuments, and I do not think that position is in any way racist,” Goff said. “I think most people here respect the monuments and the history and positive values that they represent.”

Loudoun County will soon begin the process that could lead to the removal of a Confederate soldier on the Leesburg courthouse grounds.

Northam’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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