House Republicans, Democrats continue to spar over hearing on allegations against Fairfax

Republicans say Democrats wont agree to hearing for Fairfax accusers to address lawmakers

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - House Speaker Kirk Cox issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Democrats have not agreed to a proposed hearing into the allegations against Fairfax.

The speaker shows a letter from Delegate Rob Bell, proposing to Democrats a hearing for June or August, by a bipartisan panel of the House Courts of Justice Committee. It would include 10 members - five Democrats and five Republicans.

“There should be no mistake about what has happened here: the alleged victims are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Republicans are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Democrats in the House of Delegates are refusing to allow that to happen," Cox said in a release.

This comes after Fairfax's accusers, Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson gave nationally televised interviews about how they say Fairfax sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s.

"State legislators are not judicial bodies. They're legislative bodies so they're expected to make laws. You’re not expected to determine whether any situation has a measure of legality,” said VCU Professor Dr. Ravi Perry.

Cox says he’s been in touch with the attorneys of both of Fairfax’s accusers. They say the two women are willing to share their accounts before lawmakers but first they want there to be bipartisan support.

“Let’s say the accusers come and they say the things they’ve said on national television…What happens then? Do you then censor Fairfax? Do you then seek his removal when ultimately you know those things are going to be politically problematic?” Perry said.

Democratic House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn admits the allegations are serious, hence the Democratic Caucus asking Fairfax to resign. She also says the accusers should be heard in a forum free of partisan politics.

"Our Lt. Governor, despite what many people may believe about the accusations and allegations, has not been charged with a crime,” Perry said.

Fairfax continues to deny the allegations against him.

“We stand ready to proceed, and hope that our Democratic colleagues reconsider the consequences of their decision,” Cox said in a release.

Read the full statement from House Speaker Cox below:

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) released the following statement Tuesday regarding a potential hearing on the sexual assault allegations against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.

“For the last two days, we have watched excruciating first-hand accounts from two survivors of sexual assault who allege that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax assaulted and raped them in separate incidents in the early 2000s.

“Over the course of the last few weeks, we have communicated with attorneys representing Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Ms. Meredith Watson. Through those conversations, they have told us that Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson are prepared to share their accounts at a legislative hearing, but only if there is bipartisan cooperation to conduct the hearing.

“In February, Republicans in the House of Delegates offered to work with our Democratic colleagues to establish a bipartisan subcommittee of the House Courts Committee with an equal number of members from both parties to hold a hearing. In February, some of our Democratic colleagues stated their opposition to a hearing, but Democratic leadership said it was wary to commit without knowing the specifics of the proposal.

“In a March 25 letter to Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, House Courts Committee Chairman Rob Bell laid out a specific set of parameters for a bipartisan hearing. Chairman Bell said in his letter that he hoped this proposal “would provide the bipartisan path forward” that the survivors are seeking, and said he would welcome ‘any counter-proposal that would create a bipartisan process to allow the three witnesses to testify, present evidence, and answer questions.’

“Unfortunately, despite the compelling accounts we have heard from Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson on television in recent days, Delegate Filler-Corn has made clear that she will not agree to a bipartisan General Assembly hearing of any nature. In a letter to Chairman Bell, she said, ‘we do not believe that the House of Delegates, or any selection of legislators, is the appropriate body to hear these serious allegations.’

“There should be no mistake about what has happened here: the alleged victims are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Republicans are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Democrats in the House of Delegates are refusing to allow that to happen.

“Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson have said that they rightfully do not want their stories turned into partisan fodder and we wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, it appears that two survivors of sexual assault will be denied an opportunity to be heard in the bipartisan hearing they are requesting solely because Democrats in the House of Delegates are refusing to participate.

“We stand ready to proceed, and hope that our Democratic colleagues reconsider the consequences of their decision.”

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