Virginia lieutenant governor accuses Washington Post of 'smearing' him

Virginia lieutenant governor accuses Washington Post of 'smearing' him
© Greg Nash

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) slammed the Washington Post on Monday after the news outlet published sexual assault allegations against him that it said it was unable to corroborate.

Fairfax, who earlier on Monday denied the allegations, accused the Post of "smearing" him after it published details of its reporting on the claim that contradicted his assertion that the news outlet found "significant red flags" with the accuser's story.

“The Washington Post, acknowledging that it had no corroboration, just smeared an elected official," Farifax's office said in a statement.

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Marty Baron, the executive editor for the Post, issued a statement in response to Fairfax explaining that the news outlet had an obligation to to detail its reporting after the lieutenant governor made "specific representations about Post reporting that had not resulted in publication."

"We then had an obligation to clarify the nature of both the allegations and our reporting," Baron said.

Fairfax's acknowledgment of the allegations plunged Virginia's capital into further turmoil just days after a photo surfaced from Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook that showed two individuals dressed in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan robe.

Fairfax's chief of staff and his communications director tweeted a joint statement shortly before 3 a.m. that addressed what his office called a "false and unsubstantiated allegation" detailed in an "online publication," an apparent reference to a post on right-wing site Big League Politics.

The aides said that the accuser in the case approached The Washington Post with her allegations more than a year ago, around the time Fairfax was sworn in as lieutenant governor.

Fairfax's office said the Post spent months investigating the allegation, but opted not to publish a story in light of facts supporting the lieutenant governor's denial and inconsistencies with the allegation.

The aides threatened legal action against publications that spread the allegation.

The Post on Monday detailed its previous investigation into the alleged incident and explained why it decided not to run an article after being contacted by the woman after the November 2017 election.

Fairfax and the woman first met in Boston at the 2004 Democratic national convention, according to the Post. She said that after they realized they had a mutual friend, Fairfax asked her to walk with him to his hotel room to retrieve some documents.

The newspaper said Fairfax and the woman offered different accounts of what occurred in the hotel room, and that it could not find anyone to corroborate either version. Fairfax has denied the woman's account through his attorneys and characterized the encounter as consensual, the Post reported.

The Post added that Fairfax's aides were incorrect when they said in Monday's statement that the newspaper found "significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations."

Speaking to reporters at the state capitol on Monday afternoon, Fairfax reiterated his claim that the encounter was consensual, and that allegations to the contrary were "completely uncorroborated."

“The fact they would run a story of an uncorroborated allegation from 15 years ago tells you exactly what this smear is all about,” Fairfax said.

Northam has thus far resisted a barrage of calls to step down amid controversy over the racist yearbook photo. Fairfax would take over as acting governor if Northam resigns.