Calls for Fairfax to resign grow after 2nd accusation of sexual assault

Published: Feb. 8, 2019 at 4:45 PM EST
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UPDATE (6:35 p.m.):

Contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have begun to issue calls that the lieutenant governor of Virginia resign after a second woman accused him of sexual assault.

U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York were first among the expanding field to call for Justin Fairfax's resignation. Booker posted on Twitter on Friday that "the multiple detailed allegations against the Lt. Gov. of Virginia are deeply troubling" and called on Fairfax to leave office.

Gillibrand called details of the second woman's claims "sickening and horrendous" and called on Fairfax to step down.

Former Governor Terry McAuliffe has also called on Fairfax to step down, as have five members of Congress from Virginia, including Reps. Spanberger, Wexton, Luria, Connolly, and Beyer.

On the state level, Delegate Patrick Hope has announced that he will introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax on Monday if Fairfax does not step down by then.

However, legal scholars analyzing the crisis in Virginia have said that the commonwealth's policy on impeachment only applies to incidents occurring during a lawmaker's term of office, so it's unlikely the measure would hold up.

Earlier Friday, a law firm representing Meredith Watson released a statement that Fairfax raped her when they both were students at Duke University. California college professor Vanessa Tyson has accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention.

Fairfax has denied the allegations and called for an investigation into both, saying that it would "confirm my account because I am telling the truth."

The allegations come as Virginia's top Democratic leadership faces an ever-widening scandal that began last Friday with a photo emerging on Governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook page of someone in blackface and someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Attorney General Mark Herring has also admitted wearing blackface in the '80s.

Full statements from Fairfax and Watson, as well as more details on the allegation and current Virginia crisis, can be found below.


UPDATE (5:15 p.m.):

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has issued a response to a second allegation of sexual assault against him.

A law firm representing Meredith Watson released a statement on Friday alleging that Fairfax raped her at Duke University in 2004. The accusations follows Dr. Vanessa Tyson's allegation earlier this week that she was forced to perform oral sex on him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Fairfax has maintained that his encounter with Tyson was consensual.

He says Watson's claim is "demonstrably false." His full statement can be found below:

“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever. I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. 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. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before. It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me. I will not resign.”


A second accuser has come forward against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and has called on him to resign.

The new allegation dates to 2000 when Fairfax and the alleged victim were students at Duke University.

A law firm representing Meredith Watson released a statement Friday afternoon saying she was attacked in a “premeditated and aggressive” manner by Fairfax.

The statement from Smith Mullin Counselors at Law in Montclair, NJ, said the two were friends but did not have a romantic relationship. The firm says Watson shared the allegation with friends shortly after the alleged rape occurred and statements from others corroborate the claim.

The statement said Watson was reluctant to come forward but decided to do so “out of a strong sense of civic duty” once she heard about the first allegation against him.

The previous allegation of sexual assault against Fairfax surfaced earlier this week when Dr. Vanessa Tyson

on him while they were at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

"Reading Dr. Tyson's account is painful," Fairfax wrote in response. "I have never done anything like what she suggests."

He maintains that his encounter with Dr. Tyson was consensual.

Tyson retained Washington law firm Katz Marshall & Banks, whose founding partner, Debra Katz, represented Christine Blasey Ford.

Fairfax has been made aware of the second allegation, Smith Mullin Counselors said.

He has not yet publicly responded, but the New York Times reported he is denying the claim and will release a statement soon.

The allegation comes at the end of

that has seen the state's three top Democrats embroiled in potentially career-ending scandals.

The tumult began last Friday afternoon, when Northam's

with a picture of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

Northam immediately apologized for appearing in the photograph, saying he could not "undo the harm my behavior caused then and today." Most of the Democratic establishment called for his resignation


On Saturday, though, the governor reversed course and said he wasn't in the picture. He

because he owed it to the people of Virginia to start a discussion about race and discrimination and listen to the pain he had caused.

The pressure on Northam reached a crescendo Saturday when almost the entire Virginia Democratic establishment, as well as nearly every Democratic presidential hopeful, called on him to resign. That pressure has tapered off as scandal engulfed the second and third in line for governor as well.

California college professor Vanessa Tyson

. Fairfax, who would replace Northam if he resigned, has cast the allegations as a political smear but said he believes all women deserve to be heard.

The district attorney's office in Boston declined to say whether it is investigating. Under Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations is 15 years for rape and several related crimes, an interval that would expire this summer for the woman's accusation.

And Attorney General Mark Herring — in line to become governor if Northam and Fairfax resign —

in the 1980s, when he was a college student. Herring had previously called on Northam to resign and came forward after rumors about the existence of a blackface photo of him began circulating at the Capitol.

The full statement from Nancy Erika Smith, the attorney representing Meredith Watson, can be found below:

"We serve as counsel for Meredith Watson, who was raped by Justin Fairfax in 2000, while they were both students at Duke University. Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive. The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship. Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her. Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her. The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson. At this time, Ms. Watson is 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. She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages. On behalf of our client, we have notified Justin Fairfax through his attorneys that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.