Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault by a second woman, who says she was raped by Fairfax in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University, the Washington Post reports. The allegation comes days after the first assault allegation against Fairfax emerged, and at a time in which Virginia’s state politics have become engulfed in controversy.
According to the Post, Meredith Watson said on Friday that she had been raped in a “premeditated and aggressive” assault by Fairfax when they were undergraduates. Her attorney Nancy Erika Smith explained in a statement that Watson told several classmates — who provided statements — about her account of the attack after it happened. Watson also shared her story in emails and Facebook messages, her attorney said.
Fairfax said in a Friday statement that he denies “this latest unsubstantied allegation.” He called it “demonstrably false” and said that he has “never forced myself on anyone ever.” He also called the allegation part of a “vicious and coordinated smear campaign” and stated that he will not resign.
In her statement, Smith said that Watson was “reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character.” The statement noted that the details of Watson’s attack were similar to those described by Fairfax’s other accuser, Vanessa Tyson, who came forward earlier this week with her allegation.
Tyson, an associate professor of politics at Scripps College, has said that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Watson’s attorney said in the Friday statement, “Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her.”
The new allegation against Fairfax comes at a time of political scandal in Virginia. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page was recently unearthed, showing an image of someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe next to someone in blackface. Calls for Northam’s resignation soon followed — and if he were to resign, Fairfax would in theory take over in the position. But after Tyson’s allegation against Fairfax emerged, many, including Watson, have called for Fairfax to resign — particularly after reports that he said “fuck that bitch” about Tyson in a meeting earlier this week. Amid all of this, Virginia’s attorney general Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface.