Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who faces pressure to step down from office over two sexual assault allegations, borrowed a page from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ playbook, as a legislative hearing into the accusations looms.
In a speech Sunday, Fairfax cautioned lawmakers against “political lynchings without any due process,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
“If we go backwards in a rush to judgment, and we allow for political lynchings without any due process, any facts, any evidence being heard, then I think we do a disservice to this very body in which we all serve,” Fairfax, who is only the second African-American to hold statewide office in Virginia, told the state Senate on the final day of the 2019 legislative session.
Vanessa Tyson was the first accuser to come forward with her claim that Fairfax forced her to give him oral sex during the summer of 2004. Shortly after Tyson released details of her accusation, Meredith Watson said Fairfax raped her when they were in college together at Duke University nearly two decades ago.
Both women could soon get the public hearing that they’ve wanted. Virginia Del. Rob Bell, a Republican lawmaker, said Friday he Justin Fairfax cautions Virginia lawmakers about conducting a “political lynching” against him.No date for the hearing was set, but it was expected to happen in the House Courts of Justice Committee, which Bell chairs.
“This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. As a Black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas,” Thomas said.
Tyson, a Scripps College professor, first approached the Washington Post about her allegation in November 2017 after Fairfax won his election. But the newspaper said it declined to publish her story because it could not corroborate either her version or Fairfax’s recollection of exactly what happened.
Tyson released a statement on Feb. 6 in which she officially identified herself as the accuser in the alleged July 2004 encounter, The Washington Post reported.
“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual. To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent. Quite the opposite. I consciously avoided Mr. Fairfax for the remainder of the Convention and I never spoke to him again,” Tyson’s statement said in part.
Watson wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post that was published on Feb. 18 that slammed the lack of action from the Virginia General Assembly.
“I have brought forward credible allegations, the Virginia General Assembly has not taken the simple and responsible step of arranging the thorough public hearing that we have sought. This is how the culture of sexual assault, harassment and the disempowerment of women persists,” she wrote.
Like Thomas, Fairfax sees himself as the victim. Thomas and the lieutenant governor questioned the timing of the allegations in their cases. Fairfax was preparing to possibly take over as governor if Gov. Ralph Northam resigned over his blackface scandal, the newspaper said.