Virginia lt. governor urges woman making allegations against him be treated ‘with respect’

Virginia lt. governor urges woman making allegations against him be treated ‘with respect’
© Greg Nash

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) on Wednesday urged supporters and the media to treat the woman accusing him of sexual assault "with respect."

“I would like to encourage the media, my supporters, and others to treat both the woman who made this allegations and my family with respect for how painful this situation can be for everyone involved,” Fairfax said in a statement.

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“I wish her no harm or humiliation, nor do I seek to denigrate her or diminish her voice,” he added.

Fairfax issued a statement Monday denying a sexual assault allegation brought against him by an anonymous woman that The Washington Post reported he met in Boston at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. While the woman said Fairfax assaulted her in his hotel room, the lieutenant governor claims their encounter was consensual. 

"Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect," top aides for Fairfax said Monday. "He has never assaulted anyone – ever – in any way, shape or form.” 

Fairfax stressed that he believes it is important to listen to women’s stories about sexual assault while doubling down on his assertion that this specific accusation is false.

“As a former prosecutor and someone who is close with a number of women who are survivors of sexual assault, I know that many survivors of sexual assault suffer in silence, and it is absolutely essential to their healing and our healing as a culture that we give all survivors the space and support to voice their stories," he said Wednesday.

“Regarding the allegation that has been made against me – while this allegation has been both surprising and hurtful, I also recognize that no one makes charges of this kind lightly, and I take it and this situation very seriously.”

Fairfax has emerged as a national figure as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faces bipartisan calls for his resignation. Northam has denied he appeared in a picture on his medical school yearbook page that featured a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. He has so far dismissed calls for his resignation, although on Saturday he acknowledged he wore blackface in 1984. 

Deepening the scandal in Richmond, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D), who is third in line to be governor in the state, on Wednesday said he too had worn blackface to a party while he was an undergraduate in college.

Fairfax, the state's second black lieutenant governor, said the crises that have struck the state government highlight the need to “listen to people’s experiences.”

“If we learned anything from the past week, it’s that we have to listen to people’s experiences to learn from them so we can make progress. Like many of you, I’ve spent time over the last several days discussing difficult subjects with people very close to me. I believe that if we continue to listen, we will continue to make the progress that makes the Commonwealth of Virginia a unique place, not only in the South, but in the United States of America,” he said.