Meredith Watson, the second woman who leveled a sexual assault allegation against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), criticized lawmakers in an opinion-editorial Monday for not extending her the opportunity to publicly testify against the embattled official.
Earlier in February, Watson alleged Fairfax raped her while the two studied at Duke University in 2000. Watson said she and Fairfax were friends prior to the alleged incident, but never dated or romantically involved. She is said to have recounted the alleged incident to friends and others in various emails and private Facebook messages.
Watson wrote in the Washington Post:
Despite the professed belief of numerous elected officials in Virginia and elsewhere that Vanessa Tyson, who says that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004, and I have brought forward credible allegations, the Virginia General Assembly has not taken the simple and responsible step of arranging the thorough public hearing that we have sought. This is how the culture of sexual assault, harassment and the disempowerment of women persists.
Fairfax denied that he raped me, and he denied Tyson’s account as well. And for many in the public, the media and the Virginia General Assembly, that was that. In one week, they moved on.
I am frustrated by calls for an investigation rather than a public hearing into these matters. Such “investigations” are secret proceedings, out of the public eye, leaving victims vulnerable to selective leaks and smears. And we all know how such investigations end: with “inconclusive results.” My privacy has already been violated, yet I am still willing to testify publicly under oath. Tyson has made the same offer. Our plea to the Virginia General Assembly to require the same of Fairfax has been met with inaction.
Watson concluded the op-ed by writing that Fairfax and Virginia legislature should be “ashamed” of their handling of the matter. “And it is the media that should be ashamed,” she added.
Virginia’s House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R) praised the op-ed, tweeting: “Meredith Watson is courageous for speaking out. I’m still hopeful we can develop a bipartisan consensus on the best way to look into these serious allegations.”
Watson joins Fairfax’s first accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, in volunteering to testify against the Virginia Democrat. Tyson, who alleges Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democrat National Convention, said in a statement through her attorneys that she is “fully prepared to testify at impeachment proceedings and to cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation.”
Fairfax faces a flood of calls from leading Democrats and Republicans to resign, and has already been removed from leadership positions or put on leave as an investigation into the allegations continues.
Fairfax was removed as chairman of the Democrat Lieutenant Governors Association and placed on leave from his law firm after it retained outside counsel to investigate the allegations.
“We take the allegations against Justin very seriously,” Larren Nashelsky, chairman of Morrison & Foerster chairman, said in a statement. “As a firm, we believe that it is important to seriously listen to any allegation of sexual assault or harassment, and to treat all persons making such allegations with respect and sensitivity.”
Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegations and urged the FBI to investigate the matter. He has vowed to keep his position, calling on Virginians for “space in this moment for due process.”
“This has been a devastating week for my family. It has been an especially devastating time for the great Commonwealth of Virginia,” Fairfax said. “I say again without reservation: I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else. Our American values don’t just work when it’s convenient — they must be applied at the most difficult of times.”
Meanwhile, Virginia politics is still reeling from a series of scandals, which has thrown the state’s leadership into question. Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) still refuses to resign after a racist photo in his 1984 medical year emerged showing two men wearing blackface and Ku Klux Klan attire. Attorney General Mark Herring, another top Virginia Democrat, is also fighting for his political life after admitting he donned blackface while an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia.