Virginia Dems ask Fairfax to resign
Support evaporates after second sex allegation
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 confidence 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 fulfill 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 field background checks by the FBI and run for office 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 first 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 firestorm around Fairfax follows a tumultuous week in Virginia politics, with Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, first 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 outfit. He did acknowledge using blackface in impersonating Michael Jackson in a dance contest.
He has refused widespread calls for his resignation.
In his first 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 first 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