AP NEWS

Justin Fairfax rape accuser demands justice: ‘I want some action from the Virginia legislature’

April 2, 2019

A woman accusing Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her nearly two decades ago has rejected his claim that the sex was consensual and demanded the state legislature go forward with a public hearing on the allegations.

“If you have to hold someone down, it’s not consensual,” Meredith Watson said in a tearful interview aired Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.”

Ms. Watson and Venessa Tyson, who also accused Mr. Fairfax of rape, are increasing the pressure for public hearings on the rape allegations. Virginia House Republicans promised hearings more than a month ago but since then have been silent on the issue.

The state General Assembly reconvenes Wednesday for a brief “veto session.” But lawmakers have not said will use the session to address the Fairfax rape scandal.

Ms. Tyson made a similar plea for a public hearing in an interview broadcast Monday on the same TV news show.

Ms. Watson brushed aside the lieutenant governor’s defense that he is the victim of an orchestrated political hit job.

“I don’t have anything to gain by coming forward,” said Ms. Watson, a single mother who lives in Maryland. “The only thing coming forward has done is invited criticism and chaos and scrutiny of me and put me under a microscope. I didn’t need this but I had to tell the truth.”

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

The two were friends, she said, and Mr. Fairfax invited her to his room one evening to hang out, which they had done on many occasions without incident. This time he locked the door, turned off the lights and attacked her, holding her down as she attempted to get away.

“He did things that you shouldn’t do to someone without their permission, and I tried several times to get up and leave and was pushed back down,” Ms. Watson said with tears in her eyes. “He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me.”

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.

After Ms. Watson came forward, it was revealed that she had been through financial hardships, suicide threats and domestic disputes, including her boyfriend obtaining a restraining order after alleging she harassed him and dented the trunk of his car with her fist.

Ms. Watson said these episodes were irrelevant to what Mr. Fairfax allegedly did to her in 2000.

“I want some action from the Virginia legislature,” she said. “I will say this, there is no amount of money that can ever compensate for what he did to me or what I live with every day.”

She is not seeking money from Mr. Fairfax, she said.

In a statement, Mr. Fairfax expressed sympathy for the obvious emotional distress suffered by the two women.

“I am able to hear the pain expressed, a pain I hope they are able to resolve and heal,” he said. “However, because I never assaulted either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, I know that my actions cannot be the source of that pain.”

Ms. Watson said that she and Ms. Tyson, who are both black, were disparaged by other black people because they spoke out against Mr. Fairfax.

“You are seen as betraying your race. You are seen as betraying black men,” she said. “But there is no recognition that a black man has betrayed you.”