Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax releases statement saying alleged sex assaults were 'consensual'

FILE - Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax presides over the state Senate in Richmond, Va., on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. California college professor Vanessa Tyson has made an allegation of sexual assault against Fairfax. He has denied the allegations, casting them as a political smear. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

The lieutenant governor of Virginia has released another statement denying two sexual assault allegations against him that came to light in the past week.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who looked poised to become the state's next governor amid last week's party-wide calls for Gov. Ralph Northam to step down over a racism scandal, responded to both allegations with swift and strong denials. He has called them "sad and dark politics," "vicious," and "a smear campaign."

Fairfax has been accused of forcing oral sex on politics professor Dr. Vanessa Tyson at the 2004 DNC, and raping Meredith Watson when they were Duke classmates in 2000.

On Saturday, he released a statement saying, "This has been a devastating week for my family. It has been an especially devastating time for the great Commonwealth of Virginia."

Fairfax called for due process, asking for an impartial investigator like the FBI to look into both allegations against him.

"The one thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in both situations I knew at the time, and I know today, that the interactions were consensual," he said. "I heard from Dr. Tyson after the 2004 Convention, and she never said or otherwise indicated that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort. Regarding Ms. Watson, I knew Ms. Watson in college both before and after the encounter, and she never said to me that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort."

Many state Democrats have said the allegations against Fairfax are disqualifying, and Del. Patrick Hope has said that he will introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax when the general assembly convenes on Monday. After Fairfax's Saturday statement, Watson's attorney released a rebuttal stating that she could provide witnesses to corroborate the allegation and was considering pursuing criminal action against Fairfax in North Carolina.

"For real due process, not hidden from the public, we invite Mr. Fairfax to join Ms. Watson and her witnesses in testifying at an impeachment hearing," the statement said.

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