Fair­fax ac­cu­sa­tions wor­thy of in­ves­ti­ga­tion


Woonsocket Call - - OPINION - This ed­i­to­rial ap­peared in Sun­day’s Washington Post:

Vir­ginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax has now been ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault by two women, nei­ther of whom has any ap­par­ent rea­son to lie. If Fair­fax does not re­sign, as he has been urged to do by many prom­i­nent Vir­ginia Democrats and Repub­li­cans, the state should un­der­take an im­me­di­ate in­quiry into the al­le­ga­tions against him. They can­not be al­lowed to fes­ter.

The furor around Fair­fax, a Demo­crat and for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, in­volves al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal­ity: First, the ac­cu­sa­tion by Vanessa Tyson, now a col­lege pro­fes­sor, that he forced her to per­form oral sex on him nearly 15 years ago in a ho­tel room in Bos­ton. Sec­ond, the ac­cu­sa­tion by Mered­ith Wat­son that he raped her when both of them were un­der­grad­u­ates at Duke Univer­sity in 2000.

Re­porters for The Post looked into Tyson’s story a year ago and could not cor­rob­o­rate it; nor did they find ev­i­dence of sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions against Fair­fax. Wat­son’s de­ci­sion Fri­day to make her al­le­ga­tion pub­lic sug­gests a pat­tern of con­duct by Fair­fax. Each woman’s ac­count ap­pears cred­i­ble on its face. Taken to­gether, they are a grave in­dict­ment – not least be­cause Wat­son told a col­lege friend at the time that she had just been at­tacked by Fair­fax. (She told another class­mate the same thing in 2016, by email.) The fact of con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous and past wit­nesses, who also have no ap­par­ent mo­tive to lie, can­not be lightly dis­missed.

There may be no iron­clad way to de­ter­mine the truth. How­ever, it is pos­si­ble to draw con­clu­sions about Fair­fax’s con­duct un­der fire in re­cent days, and they’re not flat­ter­ing. Fair­fax has de­nied both women’s ac­counts, and in the course of those de­nials has is­sued base­less and reck­less state­ments, say­ing Fri­day he is the vic­tim of a “vi­cious and co­or­di­nated smear cam­paign.”

In an at­tempt to dis­credit Tyson’s story, he mis­char­ac­ter­ized The Post’s re­port­ing a year ago, then ac­cused the pa­per of try­ing to “smear” him when its edi­tors set the record straight. He tried to slime Tyson by in­sist­ing she was “very much into” their sex­ual en- counter. He falsely sug­gested that her ac­count was some­how dis­cred­ited by a 2007 video in which she re­counted be­ing sex­u­ally mo­lested as a child but did not men­tion the 2004 in­ci­dent. With­out ev­i­dence, he also hinted that Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam or Le­var Stoney, the mayor of Rich­mond, could be be­hind Tyson’s al­le­ga­tion.

Fair­fax’s con­duct is am­ple rea­son to be­lieve he lacks the char­ac­ter or tem­per­a­ment to con­tinue in pub­lic ser­vice.

The scan­dals in Vir­ginia are in­evitably bound up with pol­i­tics. Democrats worry it may look bad if Fair­fax, who is African-Amer­i­can, re­signs, while fel­low Democrats Northam and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring, who face their own scan­dals stem­ming from ad­mis­sions that they wore black­face as young men, re­main in of­fice.

Op­tics are one thing. Suit­abil­ity for of­fice is another. Vir­gini­ans can­not be ex­pected to tol­er­ate a high-rank­ing of­fi­cial who is cred­i­bly ac­cused of rape and sex­ual as­sault. That’s why, if Fair­fax de­fies the calls for his res­ig­na­tion, a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion is es­sen­tial.

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