Va. Lt. Gov. Fairfax Asks For FBI Investigation After 2nd Sexual Assault Accusation

Feb 8, 2019
Originally published on February 9, 2019 11:13 pm

Updated at 8:27 p.m. ET on Saturday

Virginia's lieutenant governor showed no intention of resigning Saturday, the day after a second woman came forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax released a statement Saturday requesting that "no one rush to judgment," and called for an FBI investigation so that "due process will provide the fairness, justice and honesty that is necessary."

He said "the interactions were consensual" with both women.

Lawyers for Meredith Watson released a statement Friday alleging that Virginia's No. 2 politician raped her in 2000, while they were both attending Duke University.

"Mr. Fairfax's attack was premeditated and aggressive," her lawyers said. "The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship."

The lawyers said Watson told friends of the alleged rape in emails and Facebook messages she sent in 2016 and 2017 — notes that the lawyers included as screenshots with their statement.

Watson has requested that Fairfax resign. Through her lawyers, she said that she was "reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty."

Fairfax denied the allegation and said in a statement Friday: "I will not resign."

"I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever," Fairfax said. "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 vowed to clear his "good name" and noted he has passed FBI background checks and run for office "with nothing like this being raised before."

Watson is the second woman to come forward with sexual assault allegations against Fairfax in a week. Just days ago, Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson released her own detailed account of an alleged assault by Fairfax in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention — a claim Fairfax also denies.

Those denials are not enough for him to keep his job, according to his fellow Democrats in the state Legislature.

"Due to the serious nature of these allegations, we believe Lieutenant Governor Fairfax can no longer fulfill his duties to the Commonwealth," Democrats in both chambers said in a statement Friday night. "He needs to address this as a private citizen. The time has come for him to step down."

The allegations have surfaced in the harsh glare of the national spotlight, which was initially drawn to Virginia by a separate controversy involving Gov. Ralph Northam. The governor, also a Democrat, earlier this month admitted to using blackface, after the discovery of a racist image on his page in a decades-old yearbook.

If Northam steps down, as many critics have called for him to do, Fairfax would assume the governorship. But now, several nationally prominent Virginians within his own party are calling on Fairfax to resign as well.

"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," former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tweeted Friday after Watson's allegation surfaced. "I call for his immediate resignation."

That call was echoed by nearly every member of Virginia's national congressional delegation, including Rep. Jennifer Wexton. The latter, a Democratic freshman who won election to national office in 2018, asserted earlier this week that she believed Tyson. On Friday, she took that statement a step further.

"I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. I believe Meredith Watson," she tweeted. "And I believe Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax must resign."

Wexton also signed a joint statement with four other congressional representatives.

"The Lieutenant Governor of Virginia presides over the Virginia Senate and must be prepared to fill the role of Governor," they said. "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."

In a statement to NPR, a spokesman for Virginia GOP Chairman Jack Wilson offered a slightly more cautious response.

"This is the second serious sexual assault allegation leveled against the Lieutenant Governor in the past week," Wilson said. "As with Dr. Tyson's allegation, it needs to be investigated thoroughly because it impacts his ability to continue to serve the Commonwealth."

NPR's Sarah McCammon and Emma Bowman contributed to this report.

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