By Karen Kirk:
After a second accusation of sexual assault against Virginia Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was made on Friday, many Virginia and national public officials were calling for his resignation.
Meredith Watson, who was a student at Duke University at the same time as Fairfax, has accused him of rape in the spring of 2000. Earlier this week, Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., accused Fairfax of sexual assault while attending the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.
Virginia U.S. Representatives Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton, and Gerry Connolly Friday issued the following statement:
“The past seven days have been some of the most painful we can remember. It has been very difficult to marshal the thoughts, let alone the words, to react.
“The allegations raised by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson raise two fundamental questions which Virginia’s leaders are called to answer: do we believe them, and, if so, do we believe that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax should continue to serve?
“We believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. We found her account compelling and highly credible. The central issue at the heart of her account is consent, and there can be no better authority to decide whether it was given than Dr. Tyson herself. Meredith Watson’s statement describes another extremely disturbing incident, which lends further credence to Dr. Tyson’s story.
“All survivors of sexual violence and harassment deserve to be supported and heard, and our commitment to that principle is more important than any political consideration.
“The Lieutenant Governor of Virginia presides over the Virginia Senate and must be prepared to fill the role of Governor. It is unacceptable that either of these weighty responsibilities be entrusted to someone who has engaged in the behavior described by Dr. Tyson and Meredith Watson, particularly in light of Gov. Northam’s situation, which we continue to believe requires his resignation.
“Lt. Governor Fairfax has also shown exceptionally poor judgment in his handling of these allegations. He repeatedly attacked his accuser, he reportedly used vile and degrading language to describe her, he mischaracterized an investigation into the encounter, and he sought to blame others for events in his own past. These actions do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.
“For these reasons we believe that Justin Fairfax cannot continue to serve at Lt. Governor of Virginia and should step aside.”
And Va. Del. Patrick Hope, Arlington, threatened to introduce articles of impeachment Monday if Fairfax does not resign.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Friday night urged Fairfax to resign, saying: “While we believe that anyone accused of such a grievous and harmful act must receive the due process prescribed by the Constitution, we can’t see it in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia for the lieutenant governor to remain in his role.”
Former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Friday in a statement: “The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible. It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. I call for his immediate resignation.”
And Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand also called on Fairfax to resign on Friday.
A defiant Fairfax issued a statement saying that he would not resign: “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before.”
Watson of Maryland said Friday in a statement through her attorney that she shared her account with several classmates and friends immediately after the alleged rape occurred. She said that she and Fairfax had never dated or had a romantic relationship. They were just friends.
Meanwhile, despite calls for his resignation over a racist photo that shows one person in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robe that appeared in his medical school yearbook, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Friday told his Cabinet that he would serve out his term. Northam also admitted that he wore blackface to imitate Michael Jackson in a dance contest in 1984.
And Virginia Atty. Gen. Mark Herring said Wednesday that he wore blackface to portray a rapper at a college party in 1980. Virginia Democrats have not called for Herring to resign.
Photo at top shows Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (left), Gov. Ralph Northam and Atty. Gen. Mark Herring victorious on Nov. 7, 2017.