AP NEWS

Justin Fairfax rape accusers won’t get hearing

April 2, 2019

Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox said Tuesday that Democrats blocked a hearing for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s rape accusers to publicly tell their stories before the General Assembly.

Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, who accused the Democratic lieutenant governor of raping them in separate attacks more than a decade ago, demanded a bipartisan hearing. House Republicans backed the idea.

“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,” Mr. Cox, a Republican, said in a statement.

The statement dashed the accusers’ hopes for a hearing when the state General Assembly reconvenes Wednesday for a brief “veto session” to address the governor’s vetoes and amendments to bills passed during the regular session.

Mr. Fairfax, who denies wrongdoing, said the sex was consensual and that he is the victim of a political smear.

Ms. Tyson and Ms. Watson upped the pressure for a hearing in separate interview aired this week on “CBS This Morning.”

“I want some action from the Virginia legislature,” Ms. Watson, a single mother from Maryland, said in an interview broadcast earlier Tuesday.

Mr. Cox said that House Republicans offered to work with House Democrats to organize a bipartisan hearing but were rebuffed by Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn.

In a letter to Delegate Rob Bell, chairman of the House Courts Committee that would conduct the hearing, Ms. Filler-Corn wrote, “We do not believe that the House of Delegates, or any selection of legislators, is the appropriate body to hear these serious allegations.”

Ms. Watson said that Mr. Fairfax raped her in a premeditated attack in 2000 when they were students at Duke University.

Ms. Tyson, a political science professor at Scripps College in California, accused Mr. Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him when they met as campaign aides at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The rape allegations added to a whirlwind of scandal that swept up Virginia’s top elected Democrats this year, with Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Harris both accused of racism for wearing blackface in the 1980s.

Ms. Tyson came forward with her story as pressure mounted on Mr. Northam to resign and Mr. Fairfax, who is black, appeared poised to ascend to the governor’s mansion.

The pressure on Mr. Fairfax to step down also came from state and national Democratic leaders, including the party’s 2020 presidential contenders.

Mr. Faifax refused to resign, denied any wrongdoing and insisted the sex with both women was consensual.

A Fairfax spokesman said that he voluntarily took a polygraph test Friday and passed on every question regarding each allegation by Ms. Watson and Ms. Tyson.