- Pressure is mounting on Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to step down after Vanessa Tyson, a professor of politics at Scripps College in California and a Stanford University fellow, came forward with her allegation that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.
- Several prominent politicians, including Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a freshman Virginia Democrat, have expressed their public support for Tyson.
- The president of the National Organization for Women also took a stand against Fairfax on Wednesday, urging him to step down.
Pressure is mounting on Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to step down after Vanessa Tyson, a professor of politics at Scripps College in California and a Stanford University fellow, came forward with her allegation that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.
Several prominent politicians and others have expressed their public support for Tyson.
Toni Van Pelt, the president of the National Organization for Women, called on Fairfax to resign from his post on Wednesday evening.
“[Tyson’s] story is horrifying, compelling and clear as day – and we believe her. We believe and support survivors. We always believe and support survivors,” Van Pelt said in a statement. “This isn’t about politics. It’s about a woman who has experienced sexual assault – a serious crime – at the hands of a powerful man, who is now attacking her character. In order to tear down the systemic and toxic sexism in this country, we must speak out against it.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a freshman Virginia Democrat who previously served in the state senate, became the first major Democratic politician to side with Tyson in the matter.
“I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson,” Wexton tweeted on Wednesday.
Laura Moser, a Democrat who ran for a House seat in Texas, said Tyson is a personal friend of hers and expressed solidarity with her, calling her a “distinguished scholar” and a “kind person.”
“To not believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson, you have to believe that a lifelong Democrat with a history of working to elect Democrats would decide to torpedo the Democratic Party at the moment when it is the most vulnerable,” Ian Millhiser, a columnist at the left-leaning news website ThinkProgress, tweeted on Wednesday. “I believe her. Her statement is utterly devastating.”
Tyson detailed her disturbing allegations in a lengthy statement released by her attorneys on Wednesday.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson said of the incident, which she said occurred at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. “As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him. I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual.”
Fairfax has repeatedly denied Tyson’s claim. While he said the two had a sexual encounter in 2004, he said it was “100% consensual.” He called the claim a “smear” and has threatened to sue Tyson and others “who continue to spread these false allegations.”
Fairfax again denied Tyson’s allegations after she released her statement on Wednesday.
“Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests,” he said. “Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth.”
This is the latest development in an increasingly dire political crisis in Virginia, where both Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are facing pressure to resign after they both admitted to dressing in blackface in the 1980s.
The Democratic Party of Virginia said on Tuesday afternoon that it is evaluating Tyson’s allegation.
“All allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity. We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax,” the party said in a statement to New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel.