The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) called on Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) to resign Friday after a second woman came forward to accuse him of sexual assault.
The group of state legislators had initially refrained from calling for the lieutenant governor to step aside this week, but issued the statement Friday night amid mounting calls for him to resign after a woman accused him of rape.
“In light of the most recent sexual assault allegations against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus believes it is best for Lt. Governor Fairfax to step down from his position,” the caucus said in a statement.
“We remain steadfast in our conviction that every allegation of sexual assault or misconduct be treated with the utmost seriousness,” it added. “While we believe that anyone accused of such a grievous 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 Lieutenant Governor to remain in his role.”
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Statement on Most Recent Sexual Allegations Against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax pic.twitter.com/Bbj8sn4gF5
— VLBC (@VaBlackCaucus) February 9, 2019
The statement came hours after a woman named Meredith Watson came forward through her lawyer to accuse Fairfax of raping her in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University.
Her lawyer called the alleged attack “premeditated and aggressive,” adding that Watson had told multiple friends of the encounter immediately after it happened.
Fairfax issued a statement denying the allegations, asserting that they were part of “a vicious and coordinated smear campaign” and saying that he would not resign.
But a host of Virginia lawmakers, politicians and members of the Commonwealth’s Democratic Party continued to call for him to step aside.
“If these allegations concerning Lieutenant Governor Fairfax are accurate, then they are clearly disqualifying and he must resign,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement late Friday.
Warner lamented that “in the past week, the people of the Commonwealth have been subjected to what seems like an unending barrage of revelations about the past actions, both admitted and alleged, of their elected leaders.”
“Resolving this crisis will require a government with the confidence of the people, justice for those who have been harmed, and a path forward that promotes healing and reconciliation,” he added.
Speculation had risen this week that Fairfax may have to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D) after the governor became embroiled in a scandal starting last Friday regarding his past use of blackface.
Northam has resisted broad calls for his resignation, including from the VLBC, which was among several groups that immediately called for his ouster after a photo emerged from his page in a 1984 medical school yearbook showing a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klu Klan robe.
The governor later said he did not believe he was either person in the photo, but acknowledged darkening his skin for a Michael Jackson dance contest at another point in 1984.
Then this week, Fairfax became the center of scrutiny after a college professor from California, Vanessa Tyson, accused him of sexually assaulting her at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson said in a statement Wednesday. “Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him.”
Fairfax acknowledged that the two had a sexual encounter at the time but maintained that it was consensual.
On Wednesday, Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring (D), also admitted that he also wore blackface at a college party in 1980. He issued a statement apologizing.
While politicians were initially hesitant to weigh in on whether Fairfax should resign over the first sexual assault allegations, Watson’s allegation Friday opened the floodgate to a host of calls for the lieutenant governor’s ouster.
“We believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. We found her account compelling and highly credible. The central issue at the heart of her account is consent, and there can be no better authority to decide whether it was given than Dr. Tyson herself. Meredith Watson’s statement describes another extremely disturbing incident, which lends further credence to Dr. Tyson’s story,” Virginia Democratic Reps. Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton, and Gerry Connolly said in a joint statement