The embattled lieutenant governor of Virginia, twice accused of sexual assault while Gov. Ralph Northam faced his own racism scandal, thinks the accusations boosted his profile as a politician, he told the local media, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
In his comments, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax suggested that the accusations, which he’s maintained are false, have made him a more recognizable public figure.
“Many people a year ago would not have recognized me, now they really do,” Fairfax told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “People come up to me at gas stations, they say, ‘Hey, we recognize you. We love you. We know what they are saying about you is false.’
He made the comments after a trip to England to visit the family that helped his great-great-great grandfather escape slavery and suggested he’s mulling a gubernatorial bid.
“Going on that trip and even leaving that trip, I was really inspired,” Fairfax said. “I’m very hopeful about the future. We’ve gotten a lot of encouragement about future political steps. I’m thinking very seriously about 2021.”
In February, as Northam was criticized for the botched handling of blackface photos that surfaced in his college yearbook, Fairfax was accused of sexual assault by two women. One woman, Meredith Watson, alleged that Fairfax raped her in 2000 while the two were students at Duke University. A second woman, politics professor at Scripps College Vanessa Tyson, accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Both women have requested a public hearing before the Virginia General Assembly, but Democrats have fought the request.