Top Democrats Call On Virginia's Justin Fairfax To Resign After 2nd Sexual Assault Allegation

The lieutenant governor faced rebuke from Sens. Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, as well as all of Virginia's House and Senate Democrats.

Top Democrats representing states across the country called on Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) to resign after a second woman accused the elected official of sexual assault.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who recently announced her presidential candidacy for the 2020 election, called the accusations made by California professor Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson of Maryland “corroborated, painful stories of sexual assault and rape.”

“Fairfax should resign his office,” Harris tweeted Friday night.

All of Virginia’s Democrats in the House and Senate also called on Fairfax to step down from his post in a joint statement released by the Virginia House Democratic Caucus.

“He needs to address this as a private citizen,” the statement read.

In another statement from Virginia Democrats in the U.S. House, Reps. Don Beyer, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly criticized the way Fairfax has handled the accusations.

“Lt. Governor Fairfax has also shown exceptionally poor judgment in his handling of these allegations,” the congressional Democrats said. “He repeatedly attacked his accuser, he reportedly used vile and degrading language to describe her, he mischaracterized an investigation into the encounter, and he sought to blame others for events in his own past. These actions do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus sent HuffPost a similar statement on Fairfax, who is black.

“While we believe that anyone accused of such grievous and harmful act must receive the due process prescribed by the Constitution, we can’t see it in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Virginia for [Fairfax] to remain in his role,” the caucus’ statement read.

Earlier this week, a report from Big League Politics, a conservative news site, revealed Tyson’s allegation that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him in his hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. On Friday, Watson came forward to publicly accuse Fairfax of raping her while the two were students at Duke University in 2000.

Fairfax has denied both accusations.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Friday said that both women’s accusations were “credible and troubling,” adding in a post on Twitter that they “make it clear that Lt. Gov Fairfax should resign.”

Warren is expected to announce her 2020 presidential campaign on Saturday.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a tweet that Fairfax “can no longer effectively serve the people as Lieutenant Governor.”

Similarly, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) similarly said that it was “no longer appropriate” for Fairfax to serve and called on him to resign.

The accusations against Fairfax come at a troubling time for Virginia’s most prominent elected officials.

Gov. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, is facing his own set of calls from top Democrats to resign after a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced in which a man in blackface stood beside someone in a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

Though Northam said he was not in that photo, after initially saying he was, he admitted to painting his face with shoe polish that year as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a dance contest.

Fairfax would be next in line to serve as governor if Northam were to resign. Neither Northam nor Fairfax has offered to step down.

Escalating the scandal in Virginia, Mark Herring, the commonwealth’s attorney general, also revealed that he once wore brown makeup and a wig as part of a rapper costume for a party at the University of Virginia. Herring was 19 at the time.

Progressive advocacy groups appear to be distancing themselves from the accused Democrats on Friday.

When asked for comment on Fairfax, NARAL Pro-Choice America directed HuffPost to a tweet from Ilyse Hogue, the organization’s president, calling for his resignation.

In another statement Friday afternoon, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she believed Watson’s and Tyson’s accusations, noting that they were “extremely brave” to come forward.

“Mr. Fairfax should resign and no longer serve the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the New York Democrat said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined the chorus of Democrats on Friday, nodding to the Virginia Democrats who called for Fairfax’s resignation.

“I agree with the joint statement from the Virginia House and Senate Democrats,” he tweeted. “Very serious and credible allegations have been made by two women against Lieutenant Governor Fairfax. He needs to resign.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) released his own statement to HuffPost on Friday, suggesting that the lieutenant governor should resign if the allegations are “accurate.”

“In the past week, the people of the Commonwealth have been subjected to what seems like an unending barrage of revelations about the past actions, both admitted and alleged, of their elected leaders,” Warner said. “Resolving this crisis will require a government with the confidence of the people, justice for those who have been harmed, and a path forward that promotes healing and reconciliation.”

On Friday evening, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) joined calls for Fairfax’s resignation, contending in a statement that “the allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth.”

“We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault,” he said.

Sara Boboltz and Amy Russo contributed to this report.

This article has been updated with comment from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

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