Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax refusing to resign after second sexual assault allegation
Just days after Virginia’s political leadership was thrown into further chaos with the news that Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) had been accused of sexual assault, prompting calls for his resignation, another serious allegation surfaced Friday.
Meredith Watson came forward to accuse Fairfax of raping her in 2000 when they were students at Duke University. She shared the allegation through a statement issued by her attorney, saying the assault was “premeditated and aggressive.”
Watson’s statement said she and Fairfax had been friends at the time, and not involved romantically. She said she told her account to several friends immediately after the assault.
According to her lawyer, Watson came forward after hearing about the first accuser’s allegation and is not seeking financial damages. She is calling on Fairfax to resign however because “those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character.”
This second sex assault allegation against Fairfax has led to an avalanche of national and local Democrats demanding his immediate resignation.
The entire Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the entirety of the Virginia State Senate Democratic Caucus, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, and various presidential candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have called on Fairfax to resign.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) — all 2020 presidential contenders — have also called on him to step aside.
Should Fairfax not resign over the weekend, he can expect a bipartisan push for his impeachment, after Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) said Friday evening that he would introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he was still in office on Monday.
On Monday, I will be introducing articles of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax if he has not resigned before then.
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 8, 2019
Fairfax’s response to Watson’s allegation is revealing, especially when compared to the way now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh responded to the sexual harassment and assault allegations during his confirmation process.
Fairfax this week hired the same law firm used by Kavanaugh, and their public defenses are beginning to sound similar.
Fairfax’s initial response was to dismiss the story, which appeared on a right-wing site, and call it an “unsubstantiated allegation.” Kavanaugh’s initial response to The Washington Post’s story was to categorically deny it.
Fairfax’s subsequent response to the first detailed allegation made public on Wednesday, by Dr. Vanessa Tyson, was to deny the accusation, say he had never done anything like that, and call for a review of the incident to reveal the truth.
“Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful,” Fairfax said. “I have never done anything like what she suggests. As I said in my statement this morning, I have nothing to hide. Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth.”
Kavanaugh’s very similar response denied Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation and called for an investigation in order to defend his integrity.
“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in his statement on Ford’s public account on September 17.
Unlike Kavanaugh, Fairfax did also say in response to Dr. Tyson’s detailed allegation that he took it “very seriously,” that she deserved respect, he supported the “aims of the MeToo movement,” believed “people should always be heard,” and wished her “the best.”
However, he said he could not “agree to a description of events that simply is not true.” He also reportedly disparaged her in a private meeting earlier this week.
Fairfax denied Watson’s claim in a statement to reporters, in a similar vein in which Kavanaugh replied to the second accusation of sexual assault from Deborah Ramirez last year.
“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation,” Fairfax said of Watson’s statement. “It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever.”
Both Fairfax and Kavanaugh dismissed the allegations against them as a “smears,” demanded investigations to clear their names, cited past FBI background checks as evidence of their innocence, and refused to resign or withdraw.
The political upheaval in Virginia is further complicated the scandal surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who has admitted to wearing blackface in his 20s.
Northam made the admission at a bizarre press conference a week ago that shook public confidence in his leadership, amid revelations one day earlier of racist images on his medical school yearbook page.
Next in the line of succession after Northam and Fairfax is Attorney General Mark Herring (D), who also admitted this week to having worn blackface as a teenager.
Should all three resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor. Democratic party strategists appear focused on trying to avoid that outcome.