AP NEWS

Accuser still wants Virginia lieutenant governor to resign

March 31, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The first of two women to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault says she still wants him to resign.

CBS News released excerpts Sunday of its interview with Vanessa Tyson, who said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in 2004. Fairfax said the encounter was consensual.

The full interview was scheduled to air Monday.

Tyson said she was motivated to speak up in part because she said “Virginia people need to know who it is that they elected.”

In the excerpts, Tyson reiterated her call for Fairfax’s resignation and said she’s willing to testify about her experience at a public hearing. She had previously indicated a willingness to testify but said any hearing should be conducted in a bipartisan manner. It’s unclear if she expressed any conditions to participating in a hearing in her full interview.

She told interviewer Gayle King that she would be willing to testify under oath in front of the Virginia General Assembly and said it’s important for survivors of sexual assault to be heard.

Fairfax, for his part, issued a lengthy statement Sunday in which he said he had passed polygraph tests in which he was asked whether his encounters with Tyson and another accuser, Meredith Watson, were consensual.

Fairfax, a Democrat, has said his accusers’ accusations should be taken seriously, but he also spoke February on the floor of the state Senate and complained about a “rush to judgment” and warned that his situation could devolve into a “political lynching without any due process.”

Fairfax’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in Sunday’s statement that the public “has a right to know if serious allegations made against the Lt. Governor are true, but the public also has a right to know if they are false.” The polygraph examiner who questioned Fairfax is the same examiner who administered tests to Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Pollack noted that Fairfax has called for law enforcement to investigate the accusations and said that “a meaningful, professional factual investigation would exonerate the Lt. Governor and clear his well-earned good name and reputation.”

Tyson, in her CBS interview, said she is leery of an investigation as opposed to a hearing because investigations “often allow people in power to sweep things under the rug.”

CBS will air an interview with Watson, Fairfax’s second accuser, on Tuesday. Watson says Fairfax raped her in 2000 when they two were students at Duke University. As with Tyson, Fairfax has said his sexual encounter with Watson was consensual.

The Associated Press typically does not identify those who say they were sexually assaulted but Tyson and Watson stepped forward voluntarily and have expressed a desire to testify in public about their accusations.

Tyson’s accusation against Fairfax came as the state’s two other top officeholders faced scandals of their own. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, have also faced calls to resign. Northam came under fire after a racist photo showing a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume was found on his medical school yearbook page. Herring later acknowledged that he appeared in a photo wearing blackface during his college days at the University of Virginia.

Parker Slaybaugh, spokesman for Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican, declined comment Sunday. House Republicans announced plans in late February to hold a hearing into the allegations against Fairfax, but ran into opposition from Democrats who say law enforcement is better equipped to handle an investigation.