Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was hit with a new allegation of sexual assault on Friday afternoon, just days after the embattled Democrat was accused of assaulting a separate woman in 2004. Fairfax denied the newest allegation, labeling it “demonstrably false” but the claim swiftly inspired calls for Fairfax to resign. Multiple 2020 presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Corey Booker, D-N.J. and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., demanded he steps down. Past and present Virginia politicos also called for his resignation.
The calls for him to step down followed the release of details of the new allegation. Meridith Watson was “raped” by Justin Fairfax in 2000 “while they were both students at Duke University,” Smith Mullin P.C., legal counsel representing Watson, alleged in a Friday news release. “Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive,” the release went on to claim. “The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.
“Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her.” Fairfax quickly denied the claim.
“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” Fairfax said in a statement. “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” Fairfax insisted. “Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”
Fairfax said the allegation was part of a “vicious and coordinated smear campaign” orchestrated against him. He also pledged not to resign. But the newest claim, combined with the allegation made earlier this week, only expedited calls for Fairfax to step down.
“The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible,” former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tweeted Friday. “It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. I call for his immediate resignation.” “I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. I believe Meredith Watson. And I believe Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax must resign,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., tweeted.
Earlier this week, California college professor Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention. Fairfax called that allegation a political smear. But Fairfax is just one of three top Virginia legislators embroiled in personal scandals.
The tumult began last Friday afternoon when Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page surfaced with a picture of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam immediately apologized for appearing in the photograph, saying he could not “undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.” Most of the Democratic establishment called for his resignation by the end of the day.
On Saturday, though, the governor reversed course and said he wasn’t in the picture. He said he wasn’t going to resign immediately because he owed it to the people of Virginia to start a discussion about race and discrimination and listen to the pain he had caused. Fairfax would ostensibly replace Northam if the governor resigned.
Following the Northam and initial Fairfax allegation, Attorney General Mark Herring — in line to become governor if Northam and Fairfax resign — admitted putting on blackface in the 1980s when he was a college student. Herring had previously called on Northam to resign and came forward after rumors about the existence of a blackface photo of him began circulating at the Capitol.
A housecleaning in Virginia could be costly for Democrats. If all three leaders resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.