A second woman has come forward to say that she was raped by Democratic Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Meredith Watson alleged that Fairfax’s assault on her was “premeditated and aggressive” when they both attended Duke in 2000 and that the two were friends but not romantically involved, according to a statement from her legal counsel, the firm Smith Mullen.
“Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her,” the statement reads.
Watson is the second woman to accuse Fairfax of sexual assault this week. Vanessa Tyson, a professor in California, released a lengthy statement early this week detailing her alleged encounter with Fairfax during their time at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
“Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her. The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.” Fairfax has previously denied Tyson’s allegation.
Watson is not seeking financial damages and has alerted Fairfax through her legal team that she would like him to resign, the statement adds.
Her legal team released an email exchange between Watson and a former Duke classmate from October 2016, in which Watson responds to an invitation to a fundraiser for Fairfax by saying, “Justin raped me in college and I don’t want to hear anything about him. Please, please, please remove me from any future emails about him please, Thank you!”
Fairfax swiftly denied the allegation and called for an investigation into the accusations.
“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” he wrote in a statement. “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth. I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide.”
The lieutenant governor cited his prior FBI background checks and campaigns as yielding no such history, and stressed that he would not resign.
“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,” he wrote. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me. I will not resign.”
Tyson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her while they were both at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault. Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis. He then forced his penis into my mouth,” Tyson said in a statement.
Amidt the allegations, Fairfax’s law firm told employees he is taking a leave of absence, according to an internal memo obtained by CNN. The memo states the firm of Morrison & Foerster, of which Fairfax is a partner, has retained outside counsel to conduct an investigation. “Justin has agreed to cooperate with the firm’s investigation,” the memo states.
A number of top Virginia and national Democrats called for investigation – not resignation – in response to the first allegation leveled by Tyson, but there was a sense in Richmond that more allegations could shift that calculation for Democrats in the state.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called for Fairfax to resign soon after Watson’s allegations surfaced, something he had not done previously.
“The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible,” McAuliffe tweeted. “It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. I call for his immediate resignation.”
And Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a freshman congresswoman from northern Virginia, echoed that call.
“I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. I believe Meredith Watson. And I believe Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax must resign,” she tweeted.
The second allegation against Fairfax rounds out a wild week in Virginia politics that ends with the top three Democrats elected to statewide office engulfed in controversy.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized last week for appearing in a racist yearbook photo that showed one person in blackface and another in a KKK robe and hood. Northam then used a bizarre press conference on Saturday to take back his admission that he was in the photo, but to admit that he appeared in blackface at another time.
Controversy met Attorney General Mark Herring later in the week when the top Democrat admitted that he had appeared in black face during a 1980 party where he and other friends dressed up as rappers.
The three scandals plunged Richmond into chaos this week, forcing Democrats to juggle responses to all three issues as they look for a way forward in the commonwealth.
This story has been updated.