Fairfax: ‘I have never done anything like what she suggests’
RICHMOND, Va. (AP and WWBT) - Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax issued a statement Wednesday renewing his denial of a sexual assault allegation against him.
The statement also says it is important to listen to women when they bring allegations forward because “no one makes this kind of charge lightly.”
This comes as NBC News reports Fairfax said “F--- that b----” in reference to the woman making the allegation. NBC said Fairfax’s chief of staff acknowledge the first part of that comment, but denied any “heated language” toward the accuser.
Amid the political upheaval over Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page featuring a racist photograph, the accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, has consulted with a law firm.
A statement released by the law firm Wednesday graphically describes the allegation as Fairfax forcing the woman to “perform oral sex on him."
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” the statement said. “Utterly shocked and terrified, I tried to move my head away, but could not because his hand was holding down my neck and he was much stronger than me. As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him.”
Tyson said the assault caused her “both deep humiliation and shame.”
“I did not speak about it for years, and I (like most survivors) suppressed those memories and emotions as a necessary means to continue my studies, and to pursue my goal of building a successful career as an academic,” the statement said. “At the time, I found this horrific incident especially degrading given my regular volunteer work at a local rape crisis center.”
Tyson said she first came forward and told friends about the incident in 2017 when Fairfax was running for lieutenant governor.
She said the #MeToo movement inspired her to go public and she approached The Washington Post, which ultimately decided not to publish her allegation.
“The courage of so many women coming forward to confront powerful men and systems that allow such abuse to occur are part of what inspired me to action. The passion and resolve of so many survivors, coupled with the job security that tenure afforded me, gave me the strength I simply did not have in 2004.” Tyson said in the statement. “After The Washington Post decided in March 2018 not to run my story, I felt powerless, frustrated, and completely drained. Again I tried to bury memories of this painful incident and focus on my work and my students.”
Tyson said seeing the controversy surrounding Northam spurred her to share her feelings in a private Facebook post where she did not identify Fairfax by name, but provided enough details to make clear to whom she was referring. The statement from her lawyers said she did not intend to interject herself into “what has become a much larger political battle.”
“Over the weekend, I was undecided about whether to speak out publicly. I knew that if I did so, I would immediately face accusations about my motives and be branded a liar, as is routinely the case when women come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent men,” Tyson said. “With tremendous anguish, I am now sharing this information about my experience and setting the record straight. It has been extremely difficult to relive that traumatic experience from 2004. Mr. Fairfax has tried to brand me as a liar to a national audience, in service to his political ambitions, and has threatened litigation. Given his false assertions, I’m compelled to make clear what happened. I very much wish to resume my life as an academic and professor. I do not want to get further embroiled in this highly charged political environment.”
The statement ends by saying it is the only comment she will be making. The full statement can be seen here.
Fairfax strongly denied the allegation Monday after it was circulated on a conservative website before the explicitly details were released.
On Wednesday, Fairfax issued a statement saying it is important to listen to women while still denying the accusation against him.
“While this allegation has been both surprising and hurtful, I also recognize that no one makes charges of this kind lightly, and I take it and this situation very seriously,” Fairfax said in the statement. “This has been an emotional couple of days for me and my family. And in my remarks on Monday, I think you could hear how emotional dealing with an allegation that I know is not true has been for me.”
The statement describes the encounter with accuser as consensual and says, “She in no way indicated that anything that had happened between us made her uncomfortable.”
“I would like to encourage the media, my supporters, and others to treat both the woman who made this allegation and my family with respect for how painful this situation can be for everyone involved,” the statement said. “I wish her no harm or humiliation, nor do I seek to denigrate her or diminish her voice. But I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true.”
Fairfax’s representatives sent another statement to CNN after Dr. Vanessa Tyson released her statement saying, “Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests.”
“As I said in my statements this morning, I have nothing to hide. Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth. I take this situation very seriously and continue to believe Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect," the statement says. “But, I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.”
“I support the aims of the MeToo movement and I believe that people should always be heard and the truth should be sought. I wish Dr. Tyson the best as I do our Commonwealth.”
A firm founding partner, Debra Katz, represented Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her decades ago when they were teenagers. He denied the allegation and was confirmed to the court.
““The allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Governor Fairfax are extremely serious. The Lt. Governor, the alleged victim, and Virginians all deserve a full airing of the facts,” Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox said in a release Wednesday.
Jennifer Wexton, who represents Virginia’s 10th congressional district, tweeted Wednesday that she believes Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
The National Organization of Women has called for Fairfax to resign.
Tuesday afternoon, NBC 12 spoke with Mayor Levar Stoney about the allegations against the Lt. Governor.
“Obviously any allegations of sexual assault should be taken seriously, and I think in due time, all the facts will come out and they should be taken seriously,” said Stoney.
The mayor says the Commonwealth has endured a “tumultuous 72 hours,” as a racist photo on Governor Ralph Northam’s medical college yearbook page surfaced. Stoney says the focus should be on the future and working on the issues that matter to the community. Saturday he tweeted “I have not changed my position. The Governor didn’t put anything behind us by creating even more confusion, anger and disbelief. I still believe the Governor should do the honorable thing and step down so we can move forward.”
Tuesday, he said his position has not changed, saying the Governor needs to “step aside for the betterment of the Commonwealth."
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