One of the two women accusing Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault says his response has been “disgraceful, irresponsible and manipulative.”
In an interview aired Monday with CBS News, Vanessa Tyson criticized Fairfax for comparing himself to lynching victims when he defended himself in a speech on the state Senate floor in February.
“Never was it two black women lynching black men,” Tyson told interviewer Gayle King. Both Tyson and the second woman to accuse him, Meredith Watson, are African American; so is Fairfax.
Tyson says Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in 2004. Watson says she was raped in 2000, when she and Fairfax were at Duke University. Fairfax says both encounters were consensual.
In the interview, Tyson said her attack began with consensual kissing in a hotel room at the Democratic National Convention. She then tearfully described choking and gagging while Fairfax held her neck so she couldn’t move away.
Fairfax, a Democrat, issued a statement Sunday saying both encounters were consensual, and he passed polygraph tests to prove it. He also provided a lengthy response to CBS News in which he called for a “fair, full, and impartial investigation of the allegations and my denials.
“I am completely confident that such an investigation would exonerate me and clear my good name, which I have spent a lifetime building,” he said.
In an interview segment broadcast Sunday, Tyson said she hopes the General Assembly will hold a hearing in which she, Watson and Fairfax will all be called to testify under oath. House Republicans, who narrowly control that chamber, had announced plans to hold such a hearing but ran into opposition from Democrats who said law enforcement is better suited to investigate the accusations. Tyson told King she prefers a hearing to an investigation, because she fears investigations “often allow people in power to sweep things under the rug.”
The Associated Press typically does not identify people who say they were sexually assaulted but Tyson and Watson stepped forward voluntarily and have expressed a desire to testify in public about their accusations.
Tyson’s accusation against Fairfax came at a time when he seemed poised to ascend to the governor’s post. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was facing numerous calls to resign after a racist photo showing a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume was found on his medical school yearbook page. Then came the accusation against Fairfax. Then Virginia’s other statewide officeholder, Attorney General Mark Herring, acknowledged that he appeared in a photo wearing blackface during his college days at the University of Virginia.
Northam, Fairfax and Herring, all Democrats, have remained in office and at the head of their party as it heads into November elections in which the party hopes to gain control of the state Legislature.
CBS plans to air an interview with Watson, whose accusations became public a few days after Tyson’s, on Tuesday morning.