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

RICHMOND, VA - FEBRUARY 4: Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) talks with the press to address and deny a sex assault allegation from 2004 in the State Capitol February 04, 2019 in Richmond, VA. He denies . (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
The Washington Post/The Washington Post

A second woman has come forward to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault, the latest in a deepening political crisis for him and for the state.

Meredith Watson says Fairfax raped her when they were both students at Duke University in 2000, according to a statement from her attorney.

“We serve as counsel for Meredith Watson, who was raped by Justin Fairfax in 2000, while they were both students at Duke University. Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive. The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship,” Nancy Erika Smith, Watson’s attorney, said in a statement. “Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her.”

Fairfax has denied an accusation from another woman that he sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and released a statement calling the latest accusation “demonstrably false” while refusing to resign.

Democrats had been taking a wait-and-see approach on Fairfax. But the second accusation changed that calculus. Almost immediately afterwards, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) called on Fairfax to resign:

A number of other prominent Virginia Democrats quickly followed suit, including six of Virginia’s seven Democratic congressmen.

Fairfax’s mounting problems are just part of a broader political crisis consuming Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) told staff on Friday that he definitely won’t resign after spending a week dealing with the fallout over using blackface in the 1980s. He’s hired a top crisis communications expert, Jarvis Stewart, and spent Thursday night huddling with him and top advisers to map out a plan to stay in office that would emphasize a strong focus on racial reconciliation.

Last Friday, a conservative website published a picture of Northam’s medical school yearbook, which included a picture of one man in blackface and a second in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam immediately apologized for the photo, but the next day said he wasn’t in the picture — even as he admitted he’d used blackface on a separate occasion to dress as Michael Jackson. The governor said at that event that he would not resign unless he decided he wouldn’t be able to govern effectively.

Almost every major national and state Democrat called for Northam to resign before the news broke on Fairfax, who would ascend to the governorship if Northam left office.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D), the next in line to the governorship after Fairfax, admitted on Wednesday that he’d also once dressed in blackface during college in the early 1980s.

This story was last updated at 5:20 p.m.

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