Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has now been accused of raping a college classmate 18 years ago. Meredith Watson, the second woman to accuse him of sexual assault this week, released a statement Friday afternoon through her lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith. The rape allegedly took place in 2000, when Watson and Fairfax were both students at Duke University.
“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,” the statement by Smith said. Smith added that the details of Fairfax’s alleged attack on Watson were similar to what Fairfax’s first accuser, Vanessa Tyson, described.
“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,” Smith said. “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.”
The statement said that Smith has reached out to Fairfax on behalf of Watson to urge him to resign.
In a statement, Fairfax denies the allegation and refuses to step down.
“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” Fairfax said, added that he was calling for an investigation.
“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,” Fairfax said. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.”
In a second statement, Smith accused Fairfax of “smearing her with the typical “she’s nuts” defense.” Smith said that she had been informed by “numerous press sources” that Fairfax revealed Watson was the victim of a prior rape.
“Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke. She went to the Dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax,” Smith said in the statement.
Smith said that Fairfax used this previous encounter against her in Fairfax and Watson’s only interaction after the alleged rape.
“She turned and asked: “Why did you do it?” Mr. Fairfax answered: “I knew that because of what happened to you last year, you’d be too afraid to say anything.” Mr. Fairfax actually used the prior rape of his “friend” against her when he chose to rape her in a premeditated way. Like he is smearing Dr. Vanessa Tyson, Mr. Fairfax is now smearing Ms. Watson. That’s shameful,” Smith said.
Smith concluded that “the smears on victims of sexual assault have to stop.”
After Watson’s allegations became public, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called on Fairfax to resign.
“The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible. It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. I call for his immediate resignation,” McAuliffe wrote on Twitter.
All House Democrats from Virginia have also called for Fairfax to step down, with the exception of Rep. Bobby Scott. Presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have urged him to resign as well.
Two days ago, on Wednesday, Tysonwith her account of Fairfax’s alleged assault, describing the 2004 incident in graphic detail and questioning how Fairfax could have believed the encounter was consensual.
Tyson, an associate professor of political science at Scripps College in Claremont, California, said the news that Fairfax might succeed Gov. Ralph Northam due to a scandal over Northam’s racist yearbook photo had “flooded me with painful memories, bringing back feelings of grief, shame, and anger.”
Tyson claimed she met Fairfax during the Democratic National Convention in Boston on July 26, 2004. She said the two engaged in consensual kissing that night, but it “quickly turned into a sexual assault.” In a statement, Tyson described how the alleged assault took place, claiming Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him, during which she cried and gagged.
“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual. To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent,” Tyson said in the statement.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, Fairfax reiterated that while he believed “Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect,” he “cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.”
“Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests,” he said. “Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth.” He contends that their interaction had been a “consensual encounter. He had previouslyand “character assassination.”