Vir­ginia Dems ask Fair­fax to re­sign

Sup­port evap­o­rates af­ter sec­ond sex al­le­ga­tion

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Doug Stan­glin Con­tribut­ing: A.J. Perez, Ryan W. Miller and Christal Hayes

Crit­i­cal sup­port for em­bat­tled Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax col­lapsed Satur­day when the Demo­cratic Party of Vir­ginia called on him to re­sign fol­low­ing a sec­ond al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual as­sault.

The Demo­cratic Party of Vir­ginia said in a state­ment that Fair­fax “no longer has our confidence or sup­port. He must re­sign.”

The state­ment, is­sued by party chair Su­san Swecker, said that in light of the “cred­i­ble na­ture” of the lat­est claims against Fair­fax, “it has be­come clear that he can no longer fulfill the du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of his post.”

The pos­si­bly lethal blow from the state party came only hours af­ter the Vir­ginia Leg­isla­tive Cau­cus and Democrats in both houses of the leg­is­la­ture re­versed course and urged him to quit.

One state leg­is­la­tor, Patrick Hope, a Demo­crat, has vowed to be­gin im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings on Mon­day if Fair­fax does not step down im­me­di­ately.

The about-face by party lead­ers and leg­is­la­tors came only hours af­ter Mered­ith Wat­son said in a state­ment through her lawyers that Fair­fax raped her while they were stu­dents at Duke Univer­sity in 2000.

Fair­fax, one of three top Vir­ginia Democrats em­broiled in po­lit­i­cal scan­dal, said Fri­day he would not step down and de­manded an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the claims.

“I will clear my good name and I have noth­ing to hide. I have passed two full field back­ground checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly con­tested elec­tions with noth­ing like this be­ing raised be­fore,” Fair­fax said in a state­ment. “It is ob­vi­ous that a vi­cious and co­or­di­nated smear cam­paign is be­ing or­ches­trated against me.”

The Vir­ginia Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus, which stood by the 39-year-old African Amer­i­can fol­low­ing the first ac­cu­sa­tion, said in a state­ment late Fri­day that “it is best for Lt. Gov­er­nor Fair­fax to step down from his po­si­tion.”

While the group said it be­lieves in due process,”we can’t see it in the best in­ter­est of the Com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia for (Fair­fax) to re­main in his role.”

In ad­di­tion, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Vir­ginia, a Demo­crat, called for the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor’s res­ig­na­tion, as have six of the state’s seven Demo­cratic U.S. House mem­bers.

The firestorm around Fair­fax fol­lows a tu­mul­tuous week in Vir­ginia pol­i­tics, with Gov. Ralph Northam, a Demo­crat, first ac­knowl­edg­ing then deny­ing that he ap­peared in a photo in his 1984 med­i­cal school year­book that showed a man in black­face stand­ing by a man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. He did ac­knowl­edge us­ing black­face in im­per­son­at­ing Michael Jack­son in a dance con­test.

He has re­fused wide­spread calls for his res­ig­na­tion.

In his first in­ter­view since the scan­dal erupted, Northam told The Wash­ing­ton Post that he had “over­re­acted” by putting out a state­ment tak­ing blame for the pic­ture. He said an “in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion” be­ing con­ducted by Eastern Vir­ginia Med­i­cal School is aimed at es­tab­lish­ing the facts in the case.

He said he wants to fo­cus the rest of his term on racial eq­uity.

“This has been a real, I think, an awak­en­ing for Vir­ginia,” he told the Post. “It has re­ally raised the level of aware­ness for racial is­sues in Vir­ginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mis­takes.”

Shortly af­ter the first ac­cu­sa­tion sur­faced against Fair­fax, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring, a 57-year-old Demo­crat, vol­un­teered that he had ap­peared in black­face at a party at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia in the 1980s.

The last ac­cu­sa­tion against the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor fol­lows a pre­vi­ous claim by a one­time col­league, Vanessa Tyson, who ac­cused Fair­fax of forc­ing her to per­form oral sex in a ho­tel room dur­ing the 2004 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Bos­ton.

Fair­fax de­nied the al­le­ga­tion, call­ing his sex­ual en­counter with Tyson con­sen­sual.

In a state­ment Fri­day, Wat­son’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said Fair­fax and her client were friends in col­lege but didn’t date. Wat­son told her friends at the time that Fair­fax raped her and has pro­vided her lawyers with emails and Face­book mes­sages de­tail­ing her ac­count of the rape, Smith said.

Vir­ginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax pre­sides over the state Se­nate at the Capi­tol on Thurs­day amid the up­heaval. DREW ANGERER/GETTY IM­AGES

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.