Republicans, Democrats spar over hearings on Lt. Gov. Fairfax

Published: Feb. 21, 2019 at 6:14 PM EST
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The Republican speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates says Democrats are blocking efforts to let the two women who have accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault share their stories at legislative hearings.

House Speaker Kirk Cox said Thursday that Democrats have dodged his repeated requests to help establish a process where lawmakers could hear directly from Fairfax's accusers and other key witnesses. Both women have said they are willing to testify.

Democrats said the speaker hasn't presented a detailed plan for how the hearings would proceed and are concerned about impeding a possible criminal investigation in Massachusetts, where one of the alleged assaults occurred.

Fairfax, a Democrat, has said his encounters with the women were consensual and called the rape accusations part of a political smear.

Read the full statement from Tyson’s attorneys below:

“It has been two weeks since Dr. Vanessa Tyson came forward with detailed allegations about Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax’s sexual assault of her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Since then, Dr. Tyson has made clear that she is willing to cooperate in any investigation by the Virginia General Assembly or other appropriate authorities, including the Suffolk County District Attorney, to ensure that Lt. Governor Fairfax is held accountable for his actions. While prosecutors in Massachusetts have asked to meet with Dr. Tyson in furtherance of an investigation and Dr. Tyson will do so, the Virginia General Assembly has remained silent and has taken no action whatsoever in response to her allegations, even after a second woman, Meredith Watson, came forward to report that Lt. Governor Fairfax raped her while they were students at Duke University in 2000. While lawmakers in both parties have responded with words of concern, they have utterly failed to act and have stood idly by as Lt. Governor Fairfax has impugned Dr. Tyson’s actions as being politically motivated; verbally attacked Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson; threatened to file criminal charges against Dr. Tyson if she pursues criminal charges against him; misstated actions taken by The Washington Post in a deceitful effort to discredit Dr. Tyson, earning a rare rebuke from its Editor; referred to Dr. Tyson using a misogynistic epithet, according to NBC news; and demanded an FBI investigation knowing full well that it has no jurisdiction over the crimes alleged, in an effort to mislead the public. Lt. Governor Fairfax continues to preside over the Virginia Senate, painting himself as a victim but offering no proof of his innocence. Incredibly, Lt. Governor Fairfax’s Chief of Staff even compared him in a Facebook post to civil rights icon Emmett Till, who at the age of 14 was lynched in Mississippi after being falsely accused of flirting with a white woman. All of this comes as the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Friday, February 22, 2019, without taking any action. It now appears that the Virginia General Assembly lacks the political courage to establish a process by which Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson’s serious allegations of sexual violence suffered at the hands of Lt. Governor Fairfax will be fully investigated. We ask the members of the Virginia General Assembly to consider what message such inaction sends to victims of sexual assault and rape. It is unfathomable that the Virginia General Assembly appears intent on ending its current session without addressing this issue in any meaningful way. We call on the General Assembly to hire experienced independent investigators to conduct a prompt and thorough inquiry of these matters. Credible allegations of sexual assault must not be ignored. Dr. Tyson, Ms. Watson and Lt. Governor Fairfax have all called for an appropriate process. The General Assembly must act, and must do so immediately. To be clear, we find it totally unacceptable for the General Assembly to stand down and abdicate its duties, and instead await action by prosecutors in Massachusetts and North Carolina that might never come. Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson deserve better than supportive words. The General Assembly must do its job and make clear to citizens of the commonwealth that women will not only be believed, but that appropriate action will be taken based on a credible, transparent process in which all sides have the opportunity to be heard. We urge the Virginia General Assembly to establish a constructive path for moving forward.”