A second woman came forward Friday with claims that she had been sexually assaulted by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia, intensifying the weeklong political crisis in the state and leading top fellow Democrats to call for Fairfax to resign.
The woman, Meredith Watson, accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000 while they were students at Duke University, saying in a statement that his actions were “premeditated and aggressive” and demanding that he step down immediately. Watson spoke out two days after Vanessa Tyson, a political science professor from California, said she was assaulted by Fairfax in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
By Friday night, Fairfax was facing a wave of calls for his resignation. Democrats in the Virginia House and Senate urged him to step down, saying he “could no longer fulfill his duties to the commonwealth,” as did the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, a powerful bloc within the General Assembly. Patrick Hope, a Democrat in the Virginia House, said he would introduce articles of impeachment on Monday if the lieutenant governor had not resigned.
Fairfax, in a statement, denied all of the allegations and called the latest one “demonstrably false.” He vowed he would not resign.
“I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” Fairfax said. “Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”
After days of intense pressure on the state’s Democratic governor and attorney general over past incidents when they wore blackface, the spotlight has swung quickly to Fairfax, who only days ago had been preparing for the possibility of becoming the state’s second African-American governor if Gov. Ralph Northam bowed to calls to resign.
Now Fairfax is facing those demands himself. After Watson’s allegation became public, prominent Democrats — including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris, all 2020 presidential candidates — said Fairfax should step down.
“The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible,” McAuliffe said. “It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as lieutenant governor.”
Virginia Democrats late Friday were already discussing who could replace Fairfax, with many turning to state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, according to multiple Democrats in the state. McClellan is a veteran African-American legislator from Richmond who was widely thought to have statewide aspirations even before the events of the past week.