Arianna Coghill, Capital News Service
Democratic leaders called on Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to resign after a second woman stepped forward Feb. 8 and accused him of sexual assault.
Meredith Watson said Fairfax raped her when they were students at Duke University in 2000, according to a news release posted by her lawyers.
“Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive,” the release said.
Watson’s accusation follows a public statement by Vanessa Tyson two days earlier, alleging Fairfax assaulted her in 2004.
Fairfax, a Democrat, has denied both accounts. He called Watson’s accusation “demonstrably false” and said he “never forced himself on anyone ever.”
“I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” Fairfax said. “Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth. I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide.”
On Friday night, House and Senate Democrats issued a statement saying, “Due to the serious nature of these allegations, we believe Lieutenant Governor Fairfax can no longer fulfill his duties to the Commonwealth. He needs to address this as a private citizen. The time has come for him to step down.”
At the beginning of the week, state leaders took a “wait and see” approach toward Tyson’s allegations against Fairfax. In the wake of a new accusation, state and national leaders issued an avalanche of statements calling for Fairfax to resign — and even threatening impeachment.
Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, stated on Monday, he would introduce “articles of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax if he has not resigned before then.”
Hope later backed off from his plan, saying additional conversations needed to take place.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called for Fairfax to resign.
“We remain steadfast in our conviction that every allegation of sexual assault or misconduct be treated with the utmost seriousness. 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,” the group said.
A joint statement issued by U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Don Beyer, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly — all Virginia Democrats — said they believed both women and questioned Fairfax’s ability to govern.
“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,” the statement read.
Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who called for Northam’s resignation, was also quick to demand Fairfax’s resignation once the second accuser came forward, calling the allegations “serious and credible.”
“It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor,” McAuliffe wrote. “I call for his immediate resignation.”
Republicans in the General Assembly also called on Fairfax to quit.
“For the second time this week, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax has been accused of actions that, if true, constitute major felonies in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are shocked and dismayed by these credible and serious allegations,” said a statement issued by the top GOP leaders in the House and Senate.
“These accusations necessitate comprehensive, thorough, and immediate investigations by law enforcement authorities in Massachusetts and North Carolina.”
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