Virginia’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, made a stunning statement on Sunday comparing himself to lynching victims as he faces pressure to resign his office over allegations of sexual assault by two women.
In an unscheduled address to the Virginia state Senate, Fairfax referenced a resolution passed by the legislature’s lower chamber expressing “profound regret” for lynchings that occurred in the state during the Jim Crow era.
“And we talk about hundreds, at least 100 terror lynchings that have happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia under those very same auspices. And yet we stand here in a rush to judgment with nothing but accusations and no facts and we decide that we are willing to do the same thing,” Fairfax said to a Senate chamber that the Associated Press said reacted in “awkward silence.”
The AP reported that Virginia Republicans, who plan to crank up the political pressure on Fairfax next week with a hearing on the allegations against him, denounced his speech. The state House Republican leader called it “the worst, most disgusting type of rhetoric he could have invoked.” Some prominent black lawmakers in Virginia, however, reportedly did not object to Fairfax’s speech.
Since the allegations, which include Meredith Watson’s claim that Fairfax raped her when they were students at Duke University, prominent Democrats in Virginia and beyond have called on the once-rising star to step down. The state’s two Democratic U.S. senators have said Fairfax should resign, as have several leading candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).