Justin Fairfax Faces Mounting Calls for Resignation Amid Second Sexual-Assault Allegation
While Virginia’s second-in-command is under fire for two sexual-assault allegations, the state’s governor insists he’s not going anywhere amid a racist yearbook photo scandal.
The pressure is mounting for Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax to step down, as lawmakers continue to call for his resignation one day after a second woman came forward to allege she was raped by the politician in college.
Echoing other prominent Virginia politicians who have condemned the 39-year-old lawmaker, Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox on Saturday urged Fairfax to resign after “multiple, serious credible allegations of sexual assault.”
“I deeply respect the principle of due process and believe that the gravity of this situation demands prudence and deliberation, but the Lt. Governor has clearly lost the trust and confidence of the people of Virginia,” Cox said in a statement. “His ability to serve has been permanently impaired and, at this point, it is in the best interests of the Commonwealth for him to resign.”
The Democratic Party of Virginia also said Saturday that Fairfax must leave his post, “given the credible nature” of Meredith Watson’s claims. In a statement from her lawyers released Friday, Watson accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000 in a “premeditated and aggressive” attack that allegedly took place when they were both students at Duke University.
Her accusation came just days after Dr. Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
“It has become clear he can no longer fulfill the duties and responsibilities of his post,” the Virginia Democratic Party said in a statement. “While the Lieutenant Governor deserves due process in this matter, it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth that he goes through this process as a private citizen.”
In a statement released Saturday, Fairfax denied both sexual-assault allegations and called for a full investigation into the claims.
“I knew Ms. Watson in college both before and after the encounter, and she never said to me that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort,” he said.
A number of presidential hopefuls, Virginia lawmakers, and prominent Democrats have already made public statements urging Fairfax to resign, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was one of the first to call for the politician’s pink slip on Twitter Friday night. He said the allegations made against Fairfax were “serious and credible.” Just hours later, Virginia State Delegate Patrick Hope announced he was preparing articles of impeachment against Fairfax that he would file by Monday.
“I believe these women, he needs to resign immediately,” Hope said. “There’s no question that violent sexual assault is a ‘high crime.’”
The second sexual-assault allegation against Fairfax capped a chaotic week of controversy in Virginia politics.
Governor Ralph Northam, who came under intense heat when it was discovered that his medical school yearbook page included a photo of a man in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume, announced Saturday he will not step down despite widespread calls for his resignation.
“It’s obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity,” Northam told The Washington Post in his first media interview since the scandal erupted.
After initially admitted to being in the racist yearbook photo earlier this month, the governor later backtracked and denied his involvement, saying he does not believe he was one of the people in the image. Northam did admit, however, to “darkening“ his face to portray pop star Michael Jackson during a 1984 San Antonio dance competition.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Herring, who is third in line for the governorship, also admitted that he wore blackface to a college party in 1980.
“I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation,” he said in a statement.
In hopes of remedying his previous actions, Northam told the Post he is devoting his last three years in office to “ongoing” racial inequities in the state.
“There are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entrepreneurship,” he said. “And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mistakes.”