Virginia's state government was thrown into further chaos on Monday as Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax emphatically denied a sexual assault allegation more than a decade old.
The latest controversy follows a weekend where Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam faced calls from prominent Democrats to resign over a 1984 photo on his page of a medical school yearbook that showed one person dressed in Ku Klux Klan Robes and another wearing blackface. Northam, who has refused to resign, said Saturday he was not either person in the photo although he admitted the day before that it was him in the picture.
On Sunday, a far-right blog called Big League Politics — the same outlet that originally published Northam's 1984 yearbook — reported on the alleged sexual assault involving Fairfax. Early Monday morning, Fairfax, 39, denied the claim in a statement authored by his communications director and chief of staff.
"Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect," the statement read. "He has never assaulted anyone — ever — in any way, shape, or form."
The statement said The Washington Post examined the allegation prior to Fairfax's inauguration in 2018, adding that the publication did not publish the story because it found "significant red flags and inconsistencies" in the accuser's story. Fairfax's top aides said he would "take legal action against those attempting to spread defamatory accusation.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Fairfax said he was being "smeared" by an allegation that was "uncorroborated."
The Washington Post reported Monday that the Big League Politics story was based on a private Facebook post from the woman accusing Fairfax of misconduct. Big League Politics said it obtained the post from a friend of the woman.
The accuser said she and Fairfax first met in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and later had a sexual encounter at a hotel room that Fairfax, through his attorneys, described as consensual and the woman said had, at one point, turned non-consensual.
The Post said both individuals told different versions of the story and that the publication could not find other sources to corroborate either version. But, contrary to Fairfax's statement, The Post said it did not find red flags or inconsistencies.
The Post said it did not publish a story at the time after finding no similar allegations in Fairfax's past.
Fairfax has gained attention in recent days because he would be next-in-line to serve as governor should Northam resign, which he said in a Saturday press conference he would not do despite pressure from national and state Democrats.
Northam, who had apologized Friday for being in the photo, again apologized for the image during that press conference, but now said he had nothing to do with the racially offensive picture. He said the first time he saw the photo was Friday and had concluded the picture is not of him. He called the image "offensive, racist and despicable."
A source close to the situation told NBC News that Northam informed staff members Monday morning that he needs more time to deliberate about what his next steps will be. Northam is not expected to make a public appearance Monday.
After Fairfax, Democratic state Attorney General Mark Herring is next in line for the governorship.