Dem lawmaker calls for investigation of Fairfax over assault allegations

Rep. Brenda LawrenceBrenda Lulenar LawrenceHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI Bipartisan group asks DHS, ICE to halt deportations of Iraqi nationals MORE (D-Mich.) is calling for an investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), saying the accusations “must be taken seriously.”

“He has denied it, she has made the allegation and we’re seeing this repeatedly in the Me Too movement,” Lawrence, a co-chair of the bipartisan congressional Women’s Caucus, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball in an interview that aired Friday. "There has to be an investigation."

“I think every woman should be heard. I’m 100 percent behind holding people accountable, and this Me Too movement has exposed so many situations of sexual assault,” she added. "This is one that must be investigated, must be taken seriously."

Vanessa Tyson, a college professor in California, accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. She said in a statement Wednesday that “what began as consensual kissing turned into sexual assault,” adding that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Fairfax has denied the allegation and issued a statement shortly after Tyson's, maintaining that the interaction was consensual. His chief of staff and communications director issued a joint statement, saying that the lieutenant governor is prepared to take "appropriate legal action."

Lawrence said that while she supports due process, Fairfax shouldn’t be able to brush off the allegations. The Michigan Democrat pointed to Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court sees more serious divide open on death penalty Juan Williams: Buttigieg already making history Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle MORE as an example.

Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Supreme Court, despite accusations of sexual assault against him. The allegations, which Kavanaugh has consistently denied, resulted in a vicious confirmation battle between Democrats and Republicans.

“I have repeatedly said there is due process that we need to have, and there have been comments made on both sides,” Lawrence said. “But I do not think anyone should have an allegation and just say, ‘Oh well, I deny it’ like what we saw with the Supreme Court nominee.”

Lawrence added that such allegations make her wonder whether public servants like Kavanaugh and Fairfax are prepared to hold office in the first place.

“If you’re not able to understand the magnitude of something that you did, it causes me to think that you’re not ready for public office,” she said.

Fairfax and Virginia's other two statewide-elected officials are embroiled in controversies.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faces calls to resign after a photo surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page showing a man dressed in blackface and another person wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. He initially apologized for the picture but then denied he was in the photo, while acknowledging that he wore blackface in the 1980s as part of a Michael Jackson costume.

Virginia Attorney General Hark Herring (D) has also admitted to wearing blackface. He said he was 19 at the time.

—Tess Bonn