Virginia lawmakers call for Fairfax to resign after woman accuses him of rape

Half a dozen Virginia lawmakers have called on Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) to resign after a second woman came forward this week to accuse him of sexual assault.

"All survivors of sexual violence and harassment deserve to be supported and heard, and our commitment to that principle is more important than any political consideration," Democratic Reps. Don Beyer, Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerCentrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Vulnerable Democrats tell Pelosi COVID-19 compromise 'essential' Trump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report MORE, Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaKate Schroder in Ohio among Democratic challengers squelching GOP hopes for the House Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Virginians wait up to four hours to cast early voting ballots MORE, Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonHouse advances bill aimed at imports tied to Uyghur forced labor This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's rally risk | Biden ramps up legal team | Biden hits Trump over climate policy MORE and Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyJudge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes House panel advances bill to ban Postal Service leaders from holding political positions Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE said in a statement calling for his ouster.

Rep. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden pledges carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan | Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds | Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law Sanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 MORE (D-Va.) issued his own call for Fairfax to step aside, tweeting, "I believe that it is best for the Commonwealth of Virginia if Justin Fairfax dealt with these accusations as a private citizen. He can no longer serve us as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia." 

The calls for his resignation come after Fairfax was struck with a pair of sexual assault allegations this week amid chaos in Richmond, as speculation has arisen that he may have to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D) as the governor remains embroiled in a scandal regarding his past use of blackface.

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A woman named Meredith Watson came forward Friday through her lawyer to accuse Fairfax of raping her in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University. A statement from her lawyer called the alleged attack “premeditated and aggressive.” 

Fairfax issued a statement denying the allegations, claiming they were part of “a vicious and coordinated smear campaign” and vowing, “I will not resign.”

“I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” he said in the statement reported by Fox 5 DC. He also called for a "full investigation" into the allegations.

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Vanessa Tyson was the first woman to accuse Fairfax of misconduct earlier this week, saying he sexually assaulted her in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson, a college professor from California, said in a statement Wednesday. “Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him.”

Fairfax admitted the two had a sexual encounter at the time, but insisted it was consensual.

"We believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. We found her account compelling and highly credible. The central issue at the heart of her account is consent, and there can be no better authority to decide whether it was given than Dr. Tyson herself. Meredith Watson's statement describes another extremely disturbing incident, which lends further credence to Dr. Tyson's story,” the Virginia representatives said Friday.

While politicians had been hesitant to weigh in on the scandal, the floodgates appeared to open Friday after Watson’s account became public.

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“The multiple detailed allegations against the Lt. Gov. of Virginia are deeply troubling. They are serious, credible, and corroborated by others. It is no longer appropriate for him to serve. He should resign,” Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPreventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Meeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats Warren won't meet with Barrett, calling Trump's nomination an 'illegitimate power grab' MORE (D-N.J.), who is running for president in 2020, tweeted.

“This new allegation from Meredith Watson that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax raped her, corroborated at least two named individuals in interviews and emails, is sickening and horrendous. I believe Meredith Watson and Dr. Tyson, and it was extremely brave of them to come forward. Mr. Fairfax should resign and no longer serve the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMeeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election MORE (D-N.Y.), another presidential candidate, echoed in a statement. 

State Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Va.), the second in line to the governorship, is also facing a scandal surrounding his admission he work blackface at a college party in 1980. He issued a statement earlier this week apologizing.