Fairfax says remarks on scandal raising his profile are mischaracterized

Updated: Jun. 25, 2019 at 7:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax says he wants to clarify comments he made to reporters last week regarding the possibility he’ll run for governor after sexual allegations against him.

Media outlets reported that he said he’s considering running for the state’s top office in 2021 because the sexual assault allegations against him have raised his public profile for good. But Fairfax says he was answering two separate questions.

Signs of public support for Fairfax were apparent as people took selfie photos with the lieutenant governor at a luncheon he attended at the Omni Hotel in Richmond on Tuesday.

Fairfax confirms he told reporters he is giving thought to a gubernatorial run, but he says his comments on the allegations increasing his name recognition were an answer to a different question.

“That wasn’t the comment that I made and the headline was very misleading,” said Fairfax. “It was a couple different questions. One was how is the public responding to you and how are you living your life? That’s when I gave the answer that people are recognizing me around the commonwealth. They’re coming up and saying we know these allegations are false.”

In February, two women publicly accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting them. Dr. Vanessa Tyson said she was assaulted at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, while Meredith Watson says she was raped while attending Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in 2000.

Although Fairfax refutes the allegations, the Republican Governors Association issued a statement saying Fairfax’s remarks about his public profile are insensitive to victims of sexual assault.

Fairfax says he has experienced more people recognizing him in public due to the allegations, but express their support.

“Well they do, when you’re name is on national television. It’s unfortunately because of false accusations,” Fairfax said.

Fairfax says he has not yet received a response after asking the District Attorneys in Boston and Durham to investigate the allegations, or his claim that one accuser, Meredith Watson, attempted to blackmail him to resign.

“We were sent a letter on Feb. 8, in Washington, D.C., essentially making the accusation. It said, ‘Call us back by 3 p.m., and we’re requesting that he resign.’”

Watson’s attorney issued a statement in response: “His new claim - never before made - that Ms. Watson engaged in the crime of blackmail, is defamatory. Ms. Watson, who unlike Mr. Fairfax has always been consistent, didn’t want to put herself or Fairfax’s family (she knew his wife at Duke) through the public revelation of another rape allegation, so she gave him the opportunity to resign. Ms. Watson never threatened to sue Fairfax and never demanded money or favors. When Fairfax refused to step down, Ms. Watson felt that Dr. Tyson and the public deserved the truth.”

House Republican leadership has again called for a public hearing on the allegations to be held when the General Assembly reconvenes for a Special Session on gun control on July 9.

But Fairfax says he still opposes the idea, even if prosecutors don’t investigate.

“A hearing at thus point, you’ve heard this from people on both ends of the spectrum, they believe it will be a political circus,” he said.

Instead, Fairfax says he’s focused on working to pass gun laws during the Special Session to prevent another tragedy like the Virginia Beach shootings.

“I was at the funeral of Keith Cox, whose father is a friend, who had to eulogize his own son. Having to hug someone who has to eulogize his own child is something I will never forget,” said Fairfax.

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