Both of Virginia’s U.S. senators and five of its eleven House members say it is time for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to step down, following accusations of sexual assault by two women.
“Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth. We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D).
“Sexual assault is never acceptable, and survivors of violence and harassment deserve to be heard. If these allegations concerning Lieutenant Governor Fairfax are accurate, then they are clearly disqualifying and he must resign,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D).
“The past seven days have been some of the most painful we can remember. It has been very difficult to marshal the thoughts, let alone the words, to react,” Democratic Representatives Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton, and Gerry Connolly said in a statement issued late this afternoon.
“The allegations raised by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson raise two fundamental questions which Virginia’s leaders are called to answer: do we believe them, and, if so, do we believe that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax should continue to serve?” they said.
“We believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. We found her account compelling and highly credible. The central issue at the heart of her account is consent, and there can be no better authority to decide whether it was given than Dr. Tyson herself. Meredith Watson’s statement describes another extremely disturbing incident, which lends further credence to Dr. Tyson’s story.”
Fairfax had been expected to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam who at this time last week appeared likely to resign following reports that he had apparently appeared in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan costume in a photo published in his medical school yearbook. But Northam has resisted calls for his resignation, denying he appears in the photos.
Some observers say Northam’s position has been strengthened, at least for now, following the sexual assault allegations against Fairfax. Democrats have vowed to take such allegations seriously and are doing so in the Fairfax matter.
“All survivors of sexual violence and harassment deserve to be supported and heard, and our commitment to that principle is more important than any political consideration,” the Congressional representatives said.
“The Lieutenant Governor of Virginia presides over the Virginia Senate and must be prepared to fill the role of Governor. It is unacceptable that either of these weighty responsibilities be entrusted to someone who has engaged in the behavior described by Dr. Tyson and Meredith Watson, particularly in light of Gov. Northam’s situation, which we continue to believe requires his resignation.”
In addition to the allegations, the representatives said Fairfax has shown bad judgment in reacting to the charges.
“Lt. Governor Fairfax has also shown exceptionally poor judgment in his handling of these allegations. He repeatedly attacked his accuser, he reportedly used vile and degrading language to describe her, he mischaracterized an investigation into the encounter, and he sought to blame others for events in his own past. These actions do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.
“For these reasons we believe that Justin Fairfax cannot continue to serve as Lt. Governor of Virginia, and should step aside,” they concluded.