Justin Fairfax rape accuser ups pressure for resignation: ‘It should never be a partisan issue’
Tears streamed down Vanessa Tyson’s face as she described how Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax raped her more than a decade ago, telling her story in a TV interview that aired Monday.
“I was so ashamed. I was so humiliated on so many levels,” Ms. Tyson said on “CBS This Morning” after recounting how Mr. Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him when they met as campaign aides at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
The emotional interview fanned the rape scandal dogging Mr. Fairfax, who also has been accused by Meredith Watson of a similar attack when they were students at Duke University in 2000.
As she wept, Ms. Tyson recalled how at the 2004 convention she accompanied Mr. Fairfax to his hotel room to retrieve some paperwork. What began as an unexpected kiss from Mr. Fairfax quickly progressed to him forcing her face onto his genitals.
“I honestly did not know what was going on and the next thing I know my head is like literally in his crotch and I’m choking and gagging, and you know I couldn’t say anything because I am choking and gagging,” Ms. Tyson said. “It continues, and he’s holding my head so I can’t lift like I’m trying to lift my head, but I can’t.”
Mr. Fairfax, a Democrat who is black, bucked widespread calls to step down and could face a General Assembly ethics hearing on the rape allegations, which both women demand and want to publicly testify at under oath.
Rebuking Mr. Fairfax’s claim that the sex was consensual and that he was the victim of a “political lynching,” Ms. Tyson called his response “disgusting.”
“It was never two black women lynching a black man. One need only look at history to understand that in fact, the role of black women had always been ... leading anti-lynching campaign,” said Ms. Tyson, a professor at Scripps College in California.
She added, “Black women were lynched specifically trying to protect black men. Speaking as someone who teaches black politics, I find it disgraceful, irresponsible and manipulative.”
Insisting he did nothing wrong, Mr. Fairfax said that he took a polygraph test for each of the accusations by Ms. Tyson and Ms. Watson.
“I passed those because, as I have maintained from the very beginning, I did not assault either of my accusers,” Mr. Fairfax said in a statement to CBS News.
He expressed sympathy for the two women.
“I am able to hear the pain expressed, a pain I hope they are able to resolve and heal. However, because I never assaulted either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, I know that my actions cannot be the source of that pain,” he said.
The rape allegations added to a whirlwind of scandal that swept up Virginia’s top elected Democrats this year, with Gov. Ralph Northam and state 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 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.
Virginia House Republicans pledged to hold an ethics hearing where Ms. Tyson, Ms. Watson and Mr. Fairfax can testify, but there has been no action on that front in more than a month.
Lawmakers will have an opportunity for hearings when the General Assembly reconvenes Wednesday for a short “veto session” to consider the governor’s amendments and vetoes of bills passed during the regular session that ended Feb. 23.
“Sexual assault should never be a racial issue. It should never be a partisan issue,” Ms. Tyson said. “Sexual assault is an epidemic that is taking place around the world, across our country every day.”
In a separate interview with the CBS News morning show, Ms. Watson said she felt guilty that she didn’t come forward immediately after she was allegedly raped in 2000.
“It happened to her after it happened to me and had I had the strength or the courage to say something in 2000, maybe it never would have happened to her,” Ms. Watson said in an excerpt of the interview broadcast Monday.
The full interview is scheduled to air Tuesday.
“She can never blame herself,” Ms. Tyson said. “This wasn’t her. This wasn’t me. It wasn’t either one of us. It was Justin Fairfax.”