Virginia Lieutenant Governor’s Accuser Releases Statement

Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax.
Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax. Photo: Steve Helber/AP/REX/Shutterstock

A woman who privately accused Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault over the weekend has revealed her identity as Vanessa Tyson, an associate professor of politics at Scripps College, and released a statement detailing her recollection of the attack.

On Tuesday afternoon, a source close to Tyson’s legal team gave NBC News permission to print her name, which the right-wing website Big League Politics first reported without her consent on Sunday evening, after obtaining a screenshot of a private Facebook post she had written. In the post, she accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

In statement she released a day later through Katz, Marshall & Banks — the Washington law firm that recently represented Christine Blasey Ford — Tyson elaborated on her account. She says that she “cried and gagged” and Fairfax “forced [her] to perform oral sex on him.” For years, Tyson says that she did not speak of the alleged incident, as she “suffered from both deep humiliation and shame”; after she read reports that Fairfax might become the next governor of Virginia, though, she decided to open up about the encounter on Facebook.

“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual,” her statement reads. “To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent. Quite the opposite. I consciously avoided Mr. Fairfax for the remainder of the Convention and I never spoke to him again.”

Fairfax has forcefully denied the allegations, first by tweeting on Monday morning that the allegation was “false and unsubstantiated.” He also claimed that his accuser first approached the Washington Post with her story, and that the publication declined to publish it because the allegation had “significant red flags” — which the Post later disputed. “Fairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present. The Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version,” reads an article they ran in the wake of Fairfax’s statement. “The Post did not find ‘significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,’ as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said.”

Then, in a news conference later that day, Fairfax implied that the allegation had emerged as part of a smear campaign, arguing that the timing was suspicious, since Big League Politics published the story just days after reporting that Virginia governor Ralph Northam had appeared in a racist 1984 yearbook photo showing someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe next to someone in blackface.

Were Northam to resign, as many have called on him to do, Fairfax would in theory take over as governor. As of now, though, neither man appears to be planning his resignation. However, Fairfax is facing increased calls to do so after reports emerged that he said “fuck that bitch” about Tyson in a meeting earlier this week.

This post has been updated.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor’s Accuser Releases Statement