What to Know
- Calls are growing for Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to resign after a second woman accused him of sexual assault
- Meredith Watson came forward on Friday, just a few days after Vanessa Tyson said Fairfax assaulted her in 2004
- Watson and Tyson said through lawyers that they are willing to testify should impeachment proceedings against Fairfax begin
Hours after Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax again denied two claims of sexual assault, the two women accusing him said they would be willing to testify at a possible impeachment hearing as the Virginia Democrat faces calls to resign and a threat of impeachment.
A lawyer for Meredith Watson, a Duke University classmate of Fairfax, said in a statement Saturday that Watson would be willing to testify about the alleged assault when the two were college students should impeachment proceedings against Fairfax begin.
And later Saturday night, lawyers for Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a college professor in California who claimed that Fairfax assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, said Tyson is "fully prepared" to testify if impeachment proceedings were to begin.
Watson's lawyer statement also said Watson could provide at least two people who could testify that Watson told them of the alleged assault the day after it happened.
"We will also produce documentary evidence of Ms. Watson revealing to others the fact that Fairfax raped her," the statement said.
Fairfax forcefully denied the allegations in a statement Saturday, saying "without reservation," that he did not sexually assault either Watson or Tyson.
Fairfax said both interactions were consensual.
"I heard from Dr. Tyson after the 2004 Convention, and she never said or otherwise indicated that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort," Fairfax said in the statement. "Regarding Ms. Watson, I knew Ms. Watson in college both before and after the encounter, and she never said to me that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort."
Lawyers for Tyson said Saturday night that Fairfax has attempted to discredit Tyson's account, claiming Fairfax misrepresented a decision by The Washington Post to not run a story about the alleged assault in 2018.
Virginia Del. Patrick Hope, who represents part of Arlington County, said he will move to impeach Fairfax on Monday if he hasn't resigned.
"There's no question that violent sexual assault clearly qualifies as a high crime," Hope said in a news conference Friday night. "I believe these women. He needs to resign immediately."
Hope also clarified why he believes Fairfax should be impeached, but not Gov. Ralph Northam or Attorney General Mark Herring, both of whom have faced calls to resign after admitting to wearing blackface in the 1980s.
"The distinction between a sexual assault or a rape is clearly very different. The articles of impeachment under the constitution are very clear, high crimes and misdemeanor," Hope told News4. "This clearly meets that threshold, while the events that occurred 30 some years ago with the governor and attorney general, while they are heinous and clearly insensitive, they don’t rise to the same level."
Fairfax hasn't responded to the possibility of impeachment.
Watson's lawyers said Fairfax's statement "re-victimizes" both Watson and Tyson.
"Fairfax, now, for the first time admits sexual contact with Ms. Watson, but now claims that it was 'consensual.' There was nothing consensual about the rape of Ms. Watson and the only post rape interaction between them consisted of Ms. Watson confronting Mr. Fairfax of the assault," the statement said.
Earlier Saturday Fairfax had called for an FBI investigation of the accusations.
"Consequently, I call on all appropriate and impartial investigatory authorities, including the FBI, to investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me by Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson. I ask that all three of us be respected during this process," Fairfax said.
Several Virginia leaders have called for Fairfax to resign, including Sen. Time Kaine, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker.
Most of Virginia's House and Senate Democrats have called for Fairfax to step down, including Northern Virginia Reps. Jennifer Wexton, Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger and Gerry Connolly.
But some African American leaders are concerned with how quickly Democrats have demanded for Fairfax to resign.
Former Loudoun County NAACP President Phil Thompson said he and other African Americans are shocked that Fairfax is not receiving due process.
"We want to see Justin Fairfax treated fairly. If he has done what they claim he has done he has to suffer the consequences, but right now that hasn't been proven," Thompson said. "To have the Democrats, the Democrats, say they are going to offer up articles of impeachment on a black lieutenant governor, a Democratic lieutenant governor, when they couldn't put that word in their mouth over Ralph Northam, is abhorent."
These growing calls Fairfax to resign further complicate Virginia's future governance, as there are bipartisan calls for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after he admitted, then denied, being shown in a 1984 medical school yearbook photo with people in blackface and a KKK robe. He later admitted to wearing blackface as a Michael Jackson costume.
And the state's Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, is also under scrutiny after saying he wore blackface at a college party in 1980.