Virginia Dems call for Lt. Gov. to resign amid sexual assault accusations

Image: Justin Fairfax
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax presides over a session of the state senate inside the capital building in dowtown Richmond, on Feb. 4, 2019. Copyright Logan Cyrus AFP - Getty Images
Copyright Logan Cyrus AFP - Getty Images
By Phil McCausland and Kalhan Rosenblatt with NBC News Politics
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Justin Fairfax said again Saturday that the encounters were consensual and he wanted the claims against him to be investigated.


Virginia Democrats called on Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to resign on Saturday after a second woman accused the political rising star of sexual assault, a revelation that came after the party's other two top Democrats admitted to wearing blackface in their youth.

On Saturday night, Fairfax released a statement saying the past week had been "devastating" for not only his family but for the state of Virginia. He reiterated that his past encounters with accusers Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson were consensual.

"The one thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in both situations I knew at the time, and I know today, that the interactions were consensual," Fairfax said.

Fairfax claimed he spoke with both women after the time the alleged the assaults occurred and said neither indicated that his interactions had "caused her any discomfort." He called on the FBI and other "appropriate and impartial investigatory authorities," to look into the allegations.

"I am asking that no one rush to judgment and I am asking for there to be space in this moment for due process," Fairfax said.

But amid his calls that "no one rush to judgement," the state party said on Saturday that Fairfax should step down.

The state chairwoman, Susan Swecker, said that the allegations of sexual assault needed be taken seriously. Because of the accusers' credibility, Swecker said Fairfax could "no longer fulfill the duties and responsibilities of his post."

"While the Lieutenant Governor deserves due process in this matter, it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth that he goes through this process as a private citizen," she said in a statement. "The Lieutenant Governor no longer has our confidence or support. He must resign."

The Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association on Saturday replaced Fairfax as chairman of the organization.

Once considered to have a bright future in the Democratic Party, Fairfax stands accused of sexual assault by two women. He has denied both allegations.

Watson said in a statement from her lawyer Friday that the lieutenant governor raped her while they were both students at Duke University in 2000. The lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, described the attack as "premeditated and aggressive."

"Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession," Smith said in the statement. "Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her."

He called the accusation "demonstrably false" and called for an investigation.

"I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide," the lieutenant governor said. "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."

Fairfax also denied an accusation made by Tyson, a college professor, that he forced her to perform oral sex while they were both at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

Whatever his decision — stay or resign — Fairfax has lost the support of party leaders from the state, as well as many 2020 Democratic presidential contenders.

The list includes former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Kristen Gillibrand of New York.

"Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth," said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. "We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault."

Share this articleComments