Kamala Harris demands probe of rape allegation against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris on Thursday called for an investigation of allegations that Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax raped a woman in 2004.
Ms. Harris said the accuser, Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson, had “credibility.”
Among top Democrats, it was one of the strongest words of support yet for Ms. Tyson, whose allegation added to a whirlwind of scandals tearing apart the party’s leadership in Richmond.
“I think there should be an investigation to determine what happened,” Ms. Harris of California told reporters at the Capitol. “Certainly her letter reads it’s quite detailed and suggests that there’s credibility there. But there needs to be an investigation to determine what exactly happened.”
Politico first reported her remarks.
The rape allegation that surfaced this week immediately drew comparisons to accusations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, although Democratic lawmakers this time have been slow to weigh in.
The scandal hit Mr. Fairfax as Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and state Attorney General Mark Herring are fighting for their political survival after revelations of decades-old incidents involving the wearing of blackface.
All three men are Democrats.
Ms. Tyson released a statement Wednesday detailing how Mr. Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where they both worked as campaign aides.
Mr. Fairfax said the sex was consensual and Ms. Tyson was engaged in a political “smear,” claims that Ms. Tyson denied.
“I have no political motive. I am a proud Democrat,” Ms. Tyson wrote.
In her statement, she said Mr. Fairfax, whom she had only known for a couple of days at the convention, invited her to accompany him to fetch some documents from his hotel. Once there, he unexpectedly kissed her, and she kissed him back.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” she wrote. “Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch.”
Ms. Tyson provided a detailed account of how he forced her to perform oral sex, despite what she called her “obvious distress.”
“To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax, and I never gave any form of consent. Quite the opposite. I consciously avoided Mr. Fairfax for the remainder of the Convention and I never spoke to him again,” she wrote.
In response to her statement, Mr. Fairfax said that Ms. Tyson never indicated “discomfort” with what happened until years later.
“I’d like to begin by emphasizing how important it is for us to listen to women when they come forward with allegations of sexual assault or harassment,” he said.
However, Mr. Fairfax said he had a different recollection of the encounter.
“This has been an emotional couple of days for me and my family. And in my remarks on Monday, I think you could hear how emotional dealing with an allegation that I know is not true has been for me,” he said.