Delegate who threatened Fairfax impeachment: ‘Additional conversation’ needed
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The delegate who threatened to impeach Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said Monday that “additional conversation” is needed before anything is filed.
In a second tweet a few hours after his initial tweet, Del. Patrick Hope released a statement that said he “remains committed to the victims first.”
Over the weekend, following a second accusation of sexual assault against him, Fairfax is faced a cascade of calls for his resignation and a potential impeachment.
The new allegation dates to 2000 when Fairfax and the alleged victim were students at Duke University.
A law firm representing Meredith Watson released a statement Friday afternoon saying she was attacked in a “premeditated and aggressive” manner by Fairfax.
The statement from Smith Mullin Counselors at Law in Montclair, NJ, said the two were friends but did not have a romantic relationship. The firm says Watson shared the allegation with friends shortly after the alleged rape occurred and statements from others corroborate the claim.
The statement said Watson was reluctant to come forward but decided to do so “out of a strong sense of civic duty” once she heard about the first allegation against him.
The previous allegation of sexual assault against Fairfax surfaced earlier this week when Dr. Vanessa Tyson said she was forced to perform oral sex on him while they were at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
In a statement, Fairfax denied the claims and called it “demonstrably false" and that he has “never forced myself on anyone ever.”
Fairfax called for an investigation and said it “will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.” He also said he will not resign.
“I will clear my good name and have nothing to hide,” Fairfax’s statement said. “It is obvious that a vicious coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.”
The Republican Party of Virginia released a statement moment after the second allegation was released saying, “it needs to be investigated thoroughly because it impacts his ability to continue to serve the Commonwealth.”
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was the first to call on Fairfax to resign calling the allegations “serious and credible.” McAuliffe had previously called for Gov. Ralph Northam to step down after a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook featuring a person in blackface was made public.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a fellow Democrat and former Virginia governor, called for Fairfax’s resignation over “atrocious crimes.”
“Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth,” Kaine said in a statement. "We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault.”
That call was echoed by a joint statement of Democratic representatives from the state.
Representatives Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly issued a joint statement saying the allegations and Fairfax’s response to them “do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.”
In the statement, the representatives said the initial claim against Fairfax by Tyson is “compelling and highly credible." It goes on to say that Friday’s allegation by Watson is “another extremely disturbing incident, which lends further credence to Dr. Tyson’s story.”
“The Lieutenant Governor of Virginia presides over the Virginia Senate and must be prepared to fill the role of Governor," the statement said. “It is unacceptable that either of these weighty responsibilities be entrusted to someone who has engaged in the behavior described by Dr. Tyson and Meredith Watson. ... (Fairfax) repeatedly attacked his accuser, he reportedly used vile and degrading language to describe her, he mischaracterized an investigation into the encounter, and he sought to blame others for events in his own past. These actions do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called for him to resign saying, “We remain steadfast in our conviction that every allegation of sexual assault or misconduct be treated with the utmost seriousness. While we believe that anyone accused of such a grievous and harmful act must receive the due process prescribed by the Constitution, we can’t see it in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Lieutenant Governor to remain in his role.”
And in a joint statement, House and Senate Democrats said Fairfax “can no longer fulfill his duty to the Commonwealth” and called for him to step down to handle the allegations as a “private citizen.”
Hope (D-Arlington) took it a step further and tweeted that if Fairfax does not step down, he will introduce articles of impeachment against the lieutenant governor as early as Monday.
On Monday, Hope changed his tone and said “We owe it to all parties involved - especially the victims - to make sure that we have thought through every option the General Assembly has.”
Virginia’s statute on impeachment allows impeachment for commonwealth officials in the event of “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime of misdemeanor.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has also joined the calls for Fairfax’s resignation.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat and former Virginia governor, issued a statement calling for Fairfax’s resignation.
"Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth. We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault.”
A two-thirds majority in the Virginia Senate is needed to force removal from office.
Speaker Kirk Cox has said that he believes Fairfax should resign for the Commonwealth’s best interests.
“There are multiple, serious credible allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. I deeply respect the principle of due process and believe that the gravity of this situation demands prudence and deliberation, but the Lt. Governor has clearly lost the trust and confidence of the people of Virginia," Cox said in a release. "His ability to serve has been permanently impaired and, at this point, it is in the best interests of the Commonwealth for him to resign.”
Sen. Mark Warner, also a Democrat and former Virginia governor, repeated the call for Fairfax to resign, but offered the caveat that the allegations be proven true. In a statement, Warner said, “Sexual assault is never acceptable, and survivors of violence and harassment deserve to be heard. If these allegations concerning Lieutenant Governor Fairfax are accurate, then they are clearly disqualifying and he must resign.”
“In the past week, the people of the Commonwealth have been subjected to what seems like an unending barrage of revelations about the past actions, both admitted and alleged, of their elected leaders," the statement said. "Resolving this crisis will require a government with the confidence of the people, justice for those who have been harmed, and a path forward that promotes healing and reconciliation. I am committed to doing everything I can to find this way ahead, but it will not be the work of a single evening. Those of us in elected office who have been endowed with the public's trust must always put the Commonwealth first.”
The Democratic Party of Virginia is also calling for Fairfax’s resignation due to the “credible nature of the sexual assault claims.”
Read the lieutenant governor’s full statement below:
“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever.
I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.
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.
It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.
I will not resign.”
Read full statement from Meredith Watson below:
"We serve as counsel for Meredith Watson, who was raped by Justin Fairfax in 2000, while they were both students at Duke University. Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive. The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.
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.
Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her. The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
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. 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.
On behalf of our client, we have notified Justin Fairfax through his attorneys that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office."
Read the lieutenant governor’s second full statement below:
"This has been a devastating week for my family. It has been an especially devastating time for the great Commonwealth of Virginia.
I say again without reservation: I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else.
Our American values don’t just work when it’s convenient — they must be applied at the most difficult of times.
As an officer of the court and a former federal prosecutor, I have dedicated my life to the law and due process.
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. The one thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in both situations I knew at the time, and I know today, that the 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.
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.
What I have just expressed is the truth. I want to stand here in that truth and restate that my truth, as well as the truth of Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson, should be fully investigated and thoroughly assessed.
I believe and trust that due process will provide the fairness, justice and honesty that is necessary.
I am asking that no one rush to judgment and I am asking for there to be space in this moment for due process."
Read full statement from Meredith Watson’s attorney below:
"Justin Fairfax’s latest statement re-victimizes Ms. Watson and Dr. Tyson. He claims that two women, who never spoke or met each other, but who describe very similar sexual assaults, are lying. Fairfax says both women’s claims are “unsubstantiated.” False - they corroborate each other.
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 about the assault. We will provide at least two witnesses whom Ms. Watson told of the assault the day after Fairfax raped her. We will also produce documentary evidence of Ms. Watson revealing to others the fact that Fairfax raped her. Fairfax says he “passed” two FBI background checks. Ms. Watson was never interviewed by the FBI, so he was “cleared” of nothing related to his rape of Ms. Watson.
Mr. Fairfax claims to want due process, saying he seeks an FBI investigation. But he knows as a former Prosecutor, that the FBI has no jurisdiction over this matter. Indeed, my client may contact North Carolina authorities about a possible criminal prosecution.
For real due process, not hidden from the public, we invite Mr. Fairfax to join Ms. Watson and her witnesses in testifying at an impeachment hearing. Ms. Watson stands ready, although it will be painful, to tell the Virginia Legislature what Mr. Fairfax did to her when she was 20 years old."
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