Days after Dr. Vanessa Tyson went public with her sexual-assault allegations against Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, another woman has accused him of rape.
In a statement from her lawyer, Meredith Watson claims she was raped by Fairfax, who is next in line to become governor, in 2000, when they were both students at Duke University. The letter characterizes the alleged attack as “premeditated and aggressive.”
“The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship,” the statement said.
In a statement obtained by The Daily Beast, Fairfax denied the accusation and declared: “I will not resign.”
“I have never forced myself on anyone, ever. I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” he said. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.”
While the letter provides little other information about the alleged rape, it says the details are “similar” to those outlined in Tyson’s public statement describing her attack. Tyson claims Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, forcing her to perform oral sex in his hotel room. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
“Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her,” Watson’s lawyers said.
The statement also says Watson told her friends about the incident in a “series of emails and Facebook messages” that are in the firm’s possession. In one of those emails, obtained by The Daily Beast, Watson told a Duke alumni who invited her to a 2016 Fairfax fundraiser that Fairfax raped her.
“Justin raped me in college and I don't want to hear anything about him,” Watson responded to the email on Oct. 25, 2016. “Please, please, please remove me from any future emails about him please.”
In Facebook messages also obtained by The Daily Beast, Watson sent someone a link to an article about Fairfax running for the state's lieutenant governor spot in March 2017. “This is absolutely disgusting! This dude raped me,” she wrote.
Watson then went onto say that she wanted “to say something” because she thought he “shouldn't be running for office but she didn't know what to do. When the individual suggested she speak out, Watson expressed doubt.
“But let's face it, rape accusations barely carry any weight" without a name attached, she wrote.
The firm, Smith Mullin, also claims they have corroborating statements from Watson’s former classmates.
Kaneedreck Adams, an attorney who reportedly attended with Watson, told The Washington Post that she came crying to him in the spring of 2000.
“She was upset,” Adams told the newspaper. “She told me she had been raped and she named Justin.”
The statement from Watson’s lawyers said she decided to come forward “out of a strong sense of civic duty” and her belief that those in government “should be of the highest character.”
“She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life,” the statement read. “Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.”
“Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office,” the statement read.
Another statement released by Watson's lawyers Friday evening said she had previously been raped by a Duke basketball player and did not report it. Fairfax allegedly knew about the previous rape and that Watson had not reported it, the statement continued. At a campus party after allegedly Fairfax raped her, Watson asked him why he did it. He answered, the statement says: “I knew that because of what happened to you last year, you’d be too afraid to say anything.”
Virginia House and Senate Democrats released a statement calling for Fairfax to step down and deal with the allegations “as a private citizen.” Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also called for Fairfax’s resignation on Twitter, calling the allegations made against him “serious and credible.”
2020 Democratic contenders including Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) called for Fairfax to resign early Friday evening. Gillibrand, who is famous for advancing sexual-harassment legislation, described the allegations as “sickening and horrendous.”
The law firm at which Fairfax is a partner, Morrison & Foerster, told The Daily Beast that they have hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation into the allegations. The firm also said Fairfax has taken a leave of absence.
In a press conference Friday night, Virginia State Delegate Patrick Hope said he was preparing articles of impeachment against Fairfax, and would file them if he did not resign 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 caps a whirlwind week of controversy in Virginia politics, which began last Friday, when it was revealed that Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page featured a photo of a man in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume. Northam initially admitted to being in the photo, but then later backtracked, saying he does not believe he was one of the people in the image. So far, Northam has resisted widespread calls for his resignation.
On Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who is third in line for the governorship, 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.