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Fairfax Sexual Assault Allegation Arises Amid Northam’s Ongoing Scandal
By Katja Timm
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Virginia — While activists urge Gov. Ralph Northam to resign over a racist yearbook photo, his would-be successor — Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — is facing a sexual assault accusation.
According to published reports, a woman has claimed that Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 — an allegation Fairfax has denied. The reports prompted Fairfax’s political allies to issue public statements.
“The facts here are still being determined. Every individual deserves the opportunity to be heard, and we respect anyone who comes forward to share their story,” the House and Senate Democratic caucuses said in a joint statement Tuesday.
Also Tuesday afternoon, the Democratic Party of Virginia said that “all allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity” and that the party will continue to “evaluate the claims against Fairfax.”
In a statement Monday night, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it “takes all allegations of sexual assault or misconduct with the utmost seriousness.”
“Given the recent allegations regarding Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the VLBC will continue to assess this developing situation as more details become available,” the group’s statement added.
The allegation about the sexual assault was first reported Sunday night by the conservative news website Big League Politics, which on Friday published a page from Northam’s medical school yearbook with one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood.
According to Big League Politics, the woman who accused Fairfax shared a Facebook post with a friend, who then got permission to share it with the public.
The Facebook post did not mention Fairfax by name, but it said the accused is someone who might receive a big “promotion” in state government. According to Big League Politics, the post said:
“Imagine you were sexually assaulted during the DNC Convention in Boston in 2004 by a campaign staffer. You spend the next 13 years trying to forget it ever happened. Until one day you find out he’s the Democratic candidate for statewide office in a state some 3,000 miles away, and he wins that election in November 2017. Then by strange, horrible luck, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll get a VERY BIG promotion.”
Early Monday morning, Fairfax’s team jumped on the accusation by posting on the lieutenant governor’s social media accounts a statement denying the allegation.
“Tonight, an online publication released a false and unsubstantiated allegation against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax,” Fairfax’s Twitter press release stated. “Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect. He has never assaulted anyone — ever — in any way, shape, or form.”
The press release said that not one “reputable” outlet has reported on the allegation with substantial evidence. It said Fairfax “will take appropriate legal action against those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation.”
Talking to reporters on Monday, Fairfax said, “You don’t have to be a political genius to understand that this is a complete smear.”
“The allegation, sort of, vaporized for a year and only resurfaced on the eve of my potential elevation given the current situation, so it is all completely political,” he said.
On Friday, Northam acknowledged that he was in the photo from the 1984 yearbook of Eastern Virginia Medical School, and he apologized. However, on Saturday, Northam said it wasn’t him in the offensive picture, but he recalled darkening his skin for a Michael Jackson dance contest in 1984.
The governor has resisted calls from state and national political figures and organizations to resign.
Those calls continued this week. Anna Scholl, executive director of the advocacy group Progress Virginia said that “these revelations about the Governor serve as an indelible reminder that racism is not a relic of the past, but deeply embedded in our society.”
“We can decry the racist and bigoted symbols in the Governor’s yearbook photo but if we’re serious about building a Virginia for ALL of us, then we have to do the hard work to address systemic racism in our commonwealth,” Scholl said in a statement.
“We have so much work ahead to root out all the manifestations of racism that surround us. We have lost faith in Governor Northam’s ability to lead us all in that work. For that reason, he must resign.”
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