NewsLocal News


Virginia Democrats call on Lt. Gov. Fairfax to resign after second sexual assault allegation

Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-08 23:14:40-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Five Virginia Democratic Representatives released a joint statement Friday calling for Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax to resign after a second sexual assault allegation in the last week.

In a statement, Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton, and Gerry Connolly call the last seven days “some of the most painful we can remember.”

The latest allegation was made Friday afternoon by a Duke classmate who said Justin Fairfax raped her in a “premeditated and aggressive attack” while they were undergraduates in 2000. The claim was made by Meredith Watson through her counsel, New Jersey-based firm Smith Mullin P.C.

Earlier this week, Dr. Vanessa Tyson shared her story, accusing Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Fairfax has vehemently denied both claims, calling the latest accusation “demonstrably false.”

“I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth,” Fairfax wrote in a statement.

Fairfax went on the say he will not resign.

In the Friday afternoon statement, the Democratic leaders say they believe Tyson’s account and found her story highly credible.

“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 as Lt. Governor Of Virginia, and should step aside.”

The Representatives join former Governor Terry McAuliffe who called for Fairfax's resignation earlier Friday afternoon.

National Democrats had held off calling for Fairfax to step down after Tyson's allegations. But, like their Virginia counterparts, they have now called on him to leave office.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey had described Tyson's allegations as "deeply disturbing" and said they "should be thoroughly investigated." But he did not call for Fairfax to step down.

After Watson stepped forward, however, Booker ratcheted up his call.

"The multiple detailed allegations against the Lt. Gov. of Virginia are deeply troubling," he tweeted. "They are serious, credible, and corroborated by others. It is no longer appropriate for him to serve. He should resign."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, after calling for an investigation into Tyson's allegations, said the accusation by Watson was "sickening and horrendous" and should end Fairfax's time as lieutenant governor.

"I believe Meredith Watson and Dr. Tyson, and it was extremely brave for them to come forward," she said. "Mr. Fairfax should resign and no longer serve the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, echoed her colleagues' calls.

"These credible and troubling allegations from Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson make it clear that Lt. Gov Fairfax should resign. My heart goes out to these brave women and their families," Warren said on Twitter.

On Friday evening, Senator Tim Kaine also called for Fairfax's resignation.

"Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth. We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault," Kaine said.

CNN Wire contributed to this article.