The Slatest

Second Woman Accuses Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Sexual Assault

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax looks downward while standing in the capitol building.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax at the Virginia State Capitol on Wednesday.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A second woman has come forward to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, alleging that he raped her when they were both students at Duke University in 2000, according to a statement Friday from the woman’s attorney.

In the statement, Meredith Watson said she and Fairfax were friends in college and that her attack had been similar to that described by Fairfax’s first accuser, Vanessa Tyson. The statement, which called for Fairfax to resign, described the alleged attack as “premeditated and aggressive.”

Fairfax denied the claim, according to the New York Times, and called for a full investigation into the allegation. He also noted that he had passed FBI background checks and called the allegations part of a “smear campaign” against him. Fairfax has also denied the previous allegation. He said on Friday that he will not resign.

Watson, who has worked as a fundraising consultant for nonprofit companies, according to the Times, told friends about the rape in a series of emails and Facebook messages, the statement contended. Watson’s lawyers said they had statements from former classmates saying that she had told them soon after the alleged incident about the rape.

“At this time, Ms. Watson is 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 said. “She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.”

After the second allegation surfaced, the support for Fairfax’s resignation grew stronger. Notably, Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s former governor, called for Fairfax to resign, calling the allegations “serious and credible.”

The news followed reports of friends and colleagues coming forward to voice support for Tyson, a Scripps College professor who said Fairfax assaulted her at a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. According to her description, Fairfax held her neck down and forced her to perform oral sex on him as she cried and gagged. The Times reported that five people have said Tyson told them in the past couple years about the alleged assault at the convention, and three of those five said she had identified Fairfax as her assailant.

In Virginia, Fairfax is one of several politicians to face calls for resignation. Gov. Ralph Northam, who has repeatedly said he will not resign, is under fire for a blackface photo that appeared on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. (He has said he is not the man in blackface, nor the man dressed in KKK robes in the photo.) The state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, also admitted that he had, as a 19-year-old college student, dressed in blackface in 1980 at a party.