Although Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) presided over the Virginia State Senate during Monday’s session on Bank Street in Richmond, the effects of his scandal have deepened as four of his aides have resigned amid the sexual assault controversy. Currently, Fairfax is battling back against two accusers, one who said he sexually assaulted her in 2004, and one who said he raped her while in college in 2000.
Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a Scripps College professor, has alleged that Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Boston Democratic National Convention. In her statement published by the New York Times, Dr. Tyson said she came forward after the news of Fairfax’s likely elevation to the top political position in Virginia as the governor is embroiled in racial controversy, because it “flooded” her with “painful memories, bringing back feelings of grief, shame, and anger that stemmed from an incident with Mr. Fairfax.”
Meredith Wilson, a student at Duke University in 2000, while Fairfax also attended the North Carolina college, came forth last week with allegations that she was raped by Fairfax in a “premeditated and aggressive” fashion.
Fairfax has called the accusations “false and unsubstantiated,” a “totally fabricated story,” and “demonstrably false.” The lieutenant governor has also accused staffers of embattled Governor Ralph Northam (D) for leaking the sexual assault allegations and engaging in a “vicious and coordinated smear campaign” to derail his pathway to the governor’s office.
In a raucous press conference in the crowded capitol rotunda, Fairfax reiterated “how important it is for us to listen to women,” but an NBC News reporter caught Fairfax saying “f*** that b****” as he tried to discredit Dr. Tyson during a private meeting last Monday night.
In a recent press release from Nancy Erika Smith, Watson’s attorney with New Jersey-based Smith Mullin, P.C., comments rang out against Fairfax as she claims that he wishes to quash the allegations and defame his accusers in “secret” meetings.
“After Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson reported that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax raped them, Fairfax said he wanted ‘due process’. Impeachment hearings would have provided just that. It turns out that Mr. Fairfax does not want due process; he wants to assault the character of his victims in secret, not in public, and certainly not under oath,” she said.
Smith stated that Watson and Dr. Tyson are asking for a hearing to testify to the alleged crimes Fairfax committed, expressing that they “reject a secret and delayed proceeding.”
Regardless, Virginia’s second in command is resisting widespread pressure from nearly all elected leaders, both Democrat and Republican, to step down from his post.
As the scandal continues to garner the national spotlight, two of Fairfax’s three government aides, policy director Adele McClure and scheduling director Julia Billingsley have left his staff, as well as employees from his political action committee, executive director Dave Mills of We Rise Together and fundraiser Courtney McCargo.
PAC communications director Lauren Burke and chief of staff Larry Roberts, however, still remain in their posts.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Mills, interestingly, is the husband of State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) who is now being considered as a serious contender to replace Fairfax as lieutenant governor should he resign or be removed from office.
His removal from office via the introduction of articles of impeachment weakened yesterday following Delegate Partick Hope (D-Arlington) announcing on Twitter late last week, “On Monday, I will be introducing articles of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax if he has not resigned before then.”
After Delegate Hope said he sent draft language for articles of impeachment to his colleagues, he received an “enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed.”
Although Fairfax continues to call for an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations, it is unclear why he is proceeding that route. As a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, he must know that the FBI has no jurisdiction in the matter because the alleged incidents are neither federal crimes, nor is the investigation within the agency’s extent of background checks for certain federal officials.
A spokesperson for Fairfax has also relayed that the lieutenant governor has voiced skepticism about a legislative investigation, stating that he “believes that an inherently political process is not the most likely path for learning the truth.”
With the job of lieutenant governor being a part-time position, Fairfax’s joined San Franciso-based law firm Morrison & Foerster in early 2018. Following the scandal, however, the firm placed him on paid leave.
“We take the allegations against Justin very seriously. As a firm, we believe that it is important to seriously listen to any allegation of sexual assault or harassment, and to treat all persons making such allegations with respect and sensitivity,” the firm’s Chairman Larren Nashelsky said.
Fairfax’s growing sexual scandal is just one-third of the situation surrounding the Commonwealth’s Democrat-led executive branch.
Governor Northam reportedly appeared in a photo in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) yearbook either in blackface or in Ku Klux Klan robes. He first confirmed that he was in the photo – not saying which one – then backpedaled the day following at a very odd press conference, which included an attempt to “moonwalk” in front of reporters and his wife, Pam, telling him “inappropriate circumstances.”
Attorney General Mark Herring (D) admitted to wearing blackface to look like black rapper Kurtis Blow at a party at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1980. His admission came just days after he previously called for Northam’s resignation for also appearing in racist photos.