"My only motive in speaking now is to refute Mr. Fairfax's falsehoods and aspersions of my character, and to provide what I believe is important information for Virginians to have as they make critical decisions that involve Mr. Fairfax", she said.
Blackface began in NY vaudeville shows of the 1830s, when slavery was still legal in the U.S. South, and featured white performers who blackened their faces with burnt cork or shoe polish to caricature blacks on plantations as lazy and stupid.
That cautious approach was echoed by other leading national Democrats, who called for an investigation rather than Fairfax's resignation, while stating that Tyson's claims should be taken seriously.
Fairfax does not deny a relationship with Tyson, but says he did not force himself on her. On Wednesday afternoon, he tweeted: "The past actions of Virginia's leaders are abhorrent, but many Republicans around the country are engaged in modern-day Jim Crow voter suppression".
With Virginia's three top state officials, all of them Democrats, caught in political scandal, the commonwealth's next governor could possibly be a Republican - if those three Democrats are forced from office.
That radio interview is what reportedly motivated a medical school classmate of Northam's to tip the media off about the yearbook photo, triggering the current avalanche of recrimination.
Kirk Cox, 61, the Republican speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, is third in the state's constitutional line of succession.
If Northam resigns, Fairfax would become governor.
Democrats have made significant gains in the state legislature in recent years.
In Washington, Virginia's Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said he, too, would prefer to know more before reaching a conclusion. Northam initially said he was in the photo, then denied it, but acknowledged putting shoe polish on his face for a dance contest in Texas in 1984, when he was in the army.
The accusation against Justin Fairfax resurfaced over the weekend after Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam faced calls for resignation following the discovery of a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page.
Days after the Northam scandal broke, Herring admitted that he had worn blackface in college.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted on Wednesday to also wearing blackface.
On Thursday Herring released a statement on Twitter which did not acknowledge the existence of a photo but did detail an incident from his youth.
Abrams delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday, another step to national prominence following a close election loss for governor in Georgia a year ago to Republican Brian Kemp.
Despite Democrats' professed commitment to rooting out bigotry and intolerance, Northam's party might be motivated to rally behind him to avoid the prospect of Republicans suddenly assuming the governorship.
"The cost for Democrats of getting rid of the office holder are really low", Seth Masket, a University of Denver political scientist, said of the Northam and Franken scandals earlier this week.