A second woman has come forward to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of a “premeditated and aggressive” sexual assault, the latest accusation to bedevil the politician amid calls for his resignation.
Meredith Watson said in a statement through her lawyers that Fairfax raped her while they were students at Duke University in 2000. The accusation follows a previous claim by a former colleague who says Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.
Fairfax has denied both allegations.
The accusations cap off a week of tumult in Virginia politics as the state’s top three Democrats have been embroiled in controversy. The state’s governor and attorney general have both admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s but have rejected calls to resign.
In a statement Friday, Watson’s lawyer Nancy Erika Smith said the two were friends in college but didn’t date. Watson told her friends at the time that Fairfax raped her and has shared emails and Facebook messages detailing her account of the rape with her lawyer, Smith said.
Watson also called on Fairfax to resign, Smith said.
“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,” her attorney, Nancy Erika Smith said in a statement Friday. “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.”
Fairfax, 39, said Friday he would not resign and demanded an investigation into the claims.
“I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before,” he said in a statement. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me.”
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday said the accusations were”serious and credible” and called on him to resign.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Virginia, also echoed the call for Fairfax to step down.
The lieutenant governor is in line to succeed Northam should he resign, but first faced accusations of sexual assault in recent days.
Vanessa Tyson, who worked with Fairfax at the 2004 Democratic national convention in Boston, said Fairfax he forced her to perform oral sex in a hotel room at the time.
Fairfax on Wednesday called the encounter consensual but denied the claim of sexual assault.
“I wish her no harm or humiliation, nor do I seek to denigrate her or diminish her voice,” the lieutenant governor said. “But I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true.”
According to The New York Times, five people say Tyson, a professor at Scripps College in Claremont, California, told them about the assault over the past two years and that her account of the event has been consistent since going public.
“We hit it off, she was very interested in me, and so eventually, at one point, we ended up going to my hotel room,” Fairfax recalled of the 2004 incident, according to the Times.
Tyson said she decided to go public with her charges because of the prospects that Fairfax seemed likely to become the state’s chief executive.
“I felt a jarring sense of both outrage and despair,” Tyson said in a statement Wednesday.
The accusations against Fairfax come after a photo on Northam’s yearbook page was found and showed a person in blackface and another in Ku Klun Klan attire.
Northam denied either person was him, but said he did dress in blackface at a 1984 dance contest in San Antonio for a Michael Jackson costume.
The third in line for Virginia governor, Attorney General Mark Herring, has admitted he, too, donned blackface in the 1980s.
All have faced a chorus of calls to resign. GOP speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Kirk Cox would fall next in line if all were to step down.
“The last seven days have been tumultuous for our Commonwealth,” Cox said in a statement late Wednesday. “The revelations against and admissions by the leaders of the executive branch are disturbing.”
Contributing: John Bacon and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY