Virginia Lt. Gov denies 2nd sexual assault allegation

by Samuel Abasi Posted on February 9th, 2019

Meredith Watson alleged Friday that Fairfax raped her in 2000, while they were students at Duke University. This is the second sexual assault allegation against Fairfax in the span of a week.

Fairfax, 39, who is first in line to succeed the state’s embattled governor, Ralph Northam, a fellow Democrat under intense pressure to resign for his admitted racially offensive behavior, denied the lastest accusation as “demonstrably false.”

In a statement from his spokesman, Faifax said he has “never forced myself on anyone ever” and demanded a “full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations.”

“I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide,” he wrote, branding the allegations as part of a “vicious and coordinated smear campaign … being orchestrated against me.” He concluded by declaring: “I will not resign.”

The woman who made the new accusation, Meredith Watson, was “reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character,” the law firm that is representing her said in a statement.

The firm, New Jersey-based Smith Mullin, said Watson was “not seeking any financial damages,” and said her attorneys had notified Fairfax through his lawyers “that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office.”

The latest accusation deepened a political crisis in Virginia that began with the revelation last Friday that Northam’s medical school yearbook page contained a racist photo, followed by admissions from Northam and the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, that each had darkened their faces to imitate black performers in separate incidents during the 1980s.

Should all three men be forced to resign, Democrats would lose the governorship to the state’s Republican speaker of the House of Delegates, who is third in the line of succession, after Fairfax and Herring.

In its statement about Watson’s accusation, Smith Mullin said the attack by Fairfax “was premeditated and aggressive,” while also saying that Fairfax and Watson “were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.”

The law firm also said Watson had “shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession.”

Additionally, the firm said it has statements from former classmates corroborating that Watson had immediately told friends about the alleged rape.

In the uproar immediately following revelations last weekend about Northam’s 1984 blackface appearance and a racist yearbook photo of two individuals – one in blackface and the other dressed in white robes of the Ku Klux Klan – calls for Northam’s resignation quickly escalated.

If Northam steps down, as many critics have called for him to do — and as he Fairfax would assume the governorship. But now, several 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.”

If Northam steps down, as many critics have called for him to do — and as he Fairfax would assume the governorship. But now, several 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 congresspeople.

“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, 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.”

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