Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax

Blackface Northam jumps out of hot seat, Justin Fairfax lands in a maelstrom of sexual assault accusations

4 mins read

A glimpse at the governor’s mansion for Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has turned into a scandal that leaves his political career, and possibly, his freedom in jeopardy.

After Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson came forward with claims that Fairfax sexually assaulted them, the rising Democrat is demanding a full investigation to clear up his name.

In addition to calls from elected officials for him to resign, Tyson and Meredith want Fairfax removed from office. However, he refuses to step down.

Now, Virginia lawmakers are deciding if they should impeach Fairfax, while Suffolk County district attorney’s office in Massachusetts waits to see if formal charges will be filed. Somewhere in the crosshairs, Duke University reports that they too will look into a decades-old rape allegation against a basketball player. To add, BET founder, Bob Johnson just put up $150,000 for a fair and thorough probe.

“I am asking that no one rush to judgment and I am asking for there to be space in this moment for due process,” said Fairfax in a released statement.

He continued. “I say again without reservation: I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else.”

Blackface for Black history month

Timing of the accusations against Fairfax occurred just moments after Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam faced public ire for a racist photo that materialized on February 1. In the picture, his alleged likeness is either in blackface or costumed in white supremacist, Klu Klux Klan regalia.

As Northam’s polls plummeted, discussion of Fairfax’s possible promotion buzzed around the state’s capital. If Northam stepped down, Fairfaix would have been the second African-American governor of Virginia.

That prospect came to an abrupt halt after Tyson, an associate professor at Scripps College in Claremont, California claimed that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him. The two were in his hotel room at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

In a press conference, Fairfax refuted Tyson. He said that her claims were part of “attacks and … smears” that surfaced once people saw the “. . . possibility that [he would] be elevated to the governorship . . .”

According to Fairfax, they were consensual participants. Also, he added that Tyson previously attempted to make public her allegations through a major news organization, but was unsuccessful.

“You have someone who obviously wanted to manipulate the press . . . and was willing to again lay low for a year when the [Washington] Post initially would not run the story then magical resurface . . .” asserted Fairfax who called for an investigation of claims.

Escaping scrutiny, facing a rough road

In the interim, Northam conducted a press conference stating that he was not in the photo, but admitted to blackening his face when he impersonated Michael Jackson at a dance competition in San Antonio in the 1980s. Rather than step down, he attested to prefer to receive sensitivity training and learn more about white privilege and racism.

As Northam slowly eased from the hot seat, the spotlight on Fairfax got hotter when Watson emerged as another accuser. Watson, a former Duke University co-ed of Fairfax alleges that he raped her in 2000, on the college’s Durham, North Carolina campus.

Watson released a statement through her attorneys with claims that Tyson’s story resembled her experiences with Fairfax.

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.

Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her. The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.

At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office 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. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.

Later, Watson also stated that she was raped by Corey Maggette, a basketball player during her time at Duke. In her account, she reported the incident to school officials, but her charges were not addressed. Duke said that it will investigate the matter. Maggette denies allegations.

Several high profile Democrats have asked for Fairfax to vacate his position. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Corey Booker(D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-OK) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for his resignation.

Virginia lawmaker, Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) announced plans to introduce articles of impeachment. Since, he announced that he has postponed his plains to move forward with impeachment. While he says he supports Tyson and Watson, he wants to “build more consensus on the path forward,” according to a Twitter post.

Both women, through their legal representation, expressed agreement that they will testify at impeachment proceedings.

At a talk this week at Stanford University that streamed live, Tyson, spoke. “There’s a recurring theme when women come forward. There’s a deliberate attempt to try to undermine someone’s credibility and also a prioritization or privileging of women who might come from a higher socio-economic status . . . or they might come from a dominant group such as white people,” said Tyson to a small crowd.

In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations allow for Tyson to file charges against Fairfax. Associated Press reported that Tyson’s lawyers will be speaking to Rachel Rollins, Suffolk County’s district attorney. In an interview with the news organization, Rollins said, “Usually in sexual assault cases we are not public in any way, but this individual chose to self-report and issued a statement and has a law firm and I felt compelled quite frankly to make sure that her firm knew that we stand ready, willing and able to assist in any way possible.”

Four of Fairfax staffers quit in light of accusations. Bob Johnson, a mogul who became a billionaire through media ventures, has offered a significant amount of money to hire a law firm picked by Tyson, Meredith and Fairfax to carry out the investigation.

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