RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has dealt with mounting pressure to step down, from both Democrats and Republicans in Virginia, since two allegations of sexual assault against Fairfax surfaced this month.
On Tuesday, Virginia’s House Democrats reaffirmed calls for Lt. Gov. Fairfax to resign and also said that they believe law enforcement should investigate the allegations, “unencumbered and outside of the political arena.”
Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson are courageous in coming forward to tell their stories. We respect all survivors and believe they should be fully heard. The allegations they have made against Lt. Governor Fairfax are criminal in nature and we are treating them with the seriousness they deserve.
Given the allegations, it is appropriate that the Suffolk County District Attorney in Massachusetts has offered to investigate. We would hope any other jurisdictions involved would follow Massachusetts’ lead. We believe that the law enforcement investigation should proceed unencumbered and outside of the political arena.
As such, the House Democratic Caucus has called on Lt. Governor Fairfax to resign. We are willing to work in a bipartisan manner with members of the General Assembly on a path forward.”
-Virginia House Democrats
The attorney for Meredith Watson, the second woman accusing Lt. Gov. Fairfax of sexual assault, released a brief response to the statement from Virginia House Democrats. Nancy Erika Smith, Ms. Watson’s lawyer, called the reaction from House Democrats cowardly.
Apparently, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus believes that courageous victims of rape need to be heard — just not by them. Ms. Watson is counting on the General Assembly to do the right thing and hold hearings now. These nonstop efforts to duck their role is pure cowardice. Sympathy is welcome, but action is needed.”
– Nancy Erika Smith
Ms. Watson accused Mr. Fairfax of raping her in 2000 while the two were students at Duke University. Ms. Watson’s allegation came after another woman, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, issued a statement on Feb. 6 claiming Fairfax “forced her to perform oral sex” in 2004.
The statement from Virginia’s House Democratic Caucus comes a day after Ms. Watson’s op-ed in the Washington Post. Ms. Watson called out the General Assembly, the media and the public.
“Despite the professed belief of numerous elected officials in Virginia and elsewhere that Vanessa Tyson, who says that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004, and I have brought forward credible allegations, the Virginia General Assembly has not taken the simple and responsible step of arranging the thorough public hearing that we have sought,” Watson wrote in the Post on Monday.
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R- Colonial Heights) wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, “that a legislative forum should be seriously considered.” Cox continued by saying Republicans are “actively working to develop that process,” and then called upon Democrats to help move it forward.
Last week, Lt. Gov. Fairfax called for the allegations against him to “be fully investigated and thoroughly assessed.”
Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, disagreed with the Democratic House Caucus decision.
“It’s becoming more compelling that a legislative forum should be seriously considered,” Cox tweeted following the latest statement from the attorney.