‘I will not resign’: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax denies second accusation of sexual assault


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — A second woman is now accusing Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, claiming he raped her in 2000 while the two were students at Duke University. 

The lawyers for Meredith Watson released a statement Friday afternoon, saying Watson shared the account of her rape with friends, and now “is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving public office should be of the highest character.” 

Watson says the two were “friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship,” and that the alleged attack was “premeditated and aggressive.” 

The full statement reads: 

We serve as counsel for Meredith Watson, who was raped by Justin Fairfax in 2000, while they were both students at Duke University. Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive. The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.

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.

On behalf of our client, we have notified Justin Fairfax through his attorneys that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office.

Responding with a statement of his own, Fairfax denied what he called an “unsubstantiated allegation” by Watson, saying he would not resign and demanding a full investigation. 

“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever. 

I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth. 

I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before. 

It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.

I will not resign.”

Just hours after Watson’s statement was released, Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat who represents Arlington, announced he would introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax on Monday if Fairfax weren’t to resign by then. 


This news comes after Fairfax was accused of sexual assault by a woman named Vanessa Tyson, who said the alleged assault against her happened at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. 

Fairfax has repeatedly said the allegations by Tyson that he forced her to perform oral sex are false, claiming the acts were consensual. 

Tyson, a fellow at Stanford University and associate professor at Scripps College, shared her accounts just before Fairfax’s 2017 inauguration with The Washington Post, but the paper decided not to publish the allegations. 

Tyson also told Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) in October of 2017 via email that the then candidate had a “MeToo allegation” against him, however she didn’t go into detail, and only said she was “not a fan” of Fairfax, according to Scott’s press secretary, Austin Barbera. 

Barbera also said the congressman didn’t learn the details about the alleged assault against Tyson until she shared her full statement on Wednesday. 

Just after 9 p.m. Friday, Scott’s office released a statement:

“The recent allegations against Lieutenant Governor Fairfax are disturbing and extremely serious. Both allegations must be investigated immediately. If either is found to be true – and there appears to be significant corroborating evidence – then the Lieutenant Governor should resign immediately.”

Special Coverage: Commonwealth in Crisis

MORE: Tyson told Rep. Bobby Scott of ‘MeToo allegation’ against Fairfax in 2017

MORE: Fairfax releases second statement on sexual assault allegations

MORE: Virginia lieutenant governor’s accuser consults law firm

The Democratic Party of Virginia released a statement calling for the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax as of February 9. In a tweet, the group states that, “While the Lt. Governor deserves credible due process in this matter, it is in the best interest of the commonwealth that he goes through this process as a private citizen.” 

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus says it believes “it is best for Lt. Governor Fairfax to step down from his position … while we believe that anyone accused of such a grievious and harmful act must receive the due process prescribed by the Constitution, we can’t see it in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Lt. Gov. to remain in his role.” 

And several other Democratic members of Congress from Virginia (Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton, Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer) released a joint statement calling for Fairfax’s resignation. 

Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who represents portions of Hampton Roads, released a statement of his own saying Fairfax should deal with the accusations “as a private citizen.” 

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus issued a joint statement echoing McEachin’s. 

The Republican Party of Virginia, which has repeatedly called on Fairfax — as well as Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring — to resign after recent revelations, released another statement Friday afternoon following the news: 

“This is the second serious sexual assault allegation leveled against the Lieutenant Governor in the past week. As with with Dr. Tyson’s allegation, it needs to be investigated thoroughly because it impacts his ability to continue to serve the Commonwealth.”

And former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe took a strong stand on Twitter, calling the accusations “serious and credible” and called on Fairfax to resign. 

The allegations against Fairfax came to light after it seemed that Northam might resign due to the scandal surrounding racist images on his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page. Northam first acknowledged that he was in the photo featuring a person in blackface and a Ku Klux Klan robe, but later retracted that he was in the picture.

He also acknowledged in a press conference last Saturday that he did darken his face in 1984 to resemble Michael Jackson in a dance contest. 

Herring, who originally called for Northam to resign, later said that he himself used brown makeup as a 19-year-old University of Virginia student to resemble the rapper Kurtis Blow. Calls for resignation for Northam and Herring have quieted, with only Virginia’s Congressional Delegation calling for Northam to step down. 

MORE: Va. Democrats in Congress, Richmond differ on calls for Northam to resign

MORE: Rapper Kurtis Blow calls blackface imitation ‘regrettable’

Fairfax is second in the line of succession after Northam, followed by Herring. Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican, would assume the office if the others step down. In a statement release on February 9, Cox provided his stance on the matter. 

“There are multiple, serious credible allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. 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. 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.”  

— Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox (R). 

This breaking story will be updated. 

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