Virginia Republicans invite Fairfax and his accusers to testify

Virginia Republicans invite Fairfax and his accusers to testify
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Republicans in the Virginia state House plan to hold a hearing on the allegations of sexual assault against Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Delegate Rob Bell (R) announced on the House floor Friday that the Courts of Justice Committee will invite Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson as well as Fairfax to testify at a yet undetermined date. 

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“This will give all parties a chance to be heard,” Bell said, according to The Associated Press, adding that Republicans felt they have a duty to investigate the serious claims against the person who is first in line to the governorship. 

Virginia Democrats quickly slammed the move, calling it a political stunt. 

“House Democrats were among the first to call for Lt. Governor Fairfax's resignation after the allegations were revealed, and we have maintained our view that the allegations need to be taken seriously. Moreover, Democratic leadership had simply requested a clear plan for a joint approach. Instead, we were met first with silence, and then with press releases,” the party said in a statement. “The Speaker and House Republicans are attempting to politicize these serious, criminal allegations. All parties involved deserve better.” 

Tyson first came forward earlier this month, accusing Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004 while they were in Boston for the Democratic National Convention.

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

Her lawyers added in a press release Thursday that Tyson is “willing to cooperate in any investigation by the Virginia General Assembly or other appropriate authorities ... to ensure that Lt. Governor Fairfax is held accountable for his actions.”

Fairfax maintains the encounter was consensual.

Days after Tyson came forward, Watson accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000 while they were both students at Duke University. 

Fairfax also denied Watson’s allegation and has dismissed calls for his resignation from both the state Democratic and Republican parties as well as high-profile national Democrats.

Fairfax is not the only Virginia official mired in controversy.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has resisted calls to resign after a photo of a man in blackface and another man dressed up as a Klansman in an old yearbook resurfaced. Northam initially apologized for the photo but later said he was not in the image. He did admit to wearing blackface at another time.

Mark Herring (D), the state's attorney general, has also admitted to and apologized for wearing blackface in the past.