- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Two women who have accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of rape lost their bid Tuesday for a public hearing to tell their stories to the state legislature.

Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox announced that Democratic lawmakers blocked proposals for a bipartisan hearing the women had demanded.

“There should be no mistake about what has happened here: the alleged victims are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Republicans are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Democrats in the House of Delegates are refusing to allow that to happen,” Mr. Cox, Colonial Heights Republican, said in a written statement.

Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, who accused the Democratic lieutenant governor of raping them in separate attacks more than a decade ago, increased the pressure for a public hearing this week in interviews aired on “CBS This Morning.”

“I want some action from the Virginia legislature,” Ms. Watson, a single mother from Maryland, said in a Tuesday broadcast.

However, lawyers for Ms. Tyson and Ms. Watson told the speaker’s office that they would testify only at a bipartisan hearing.

Mr. Cox’s statement dashed their hopes for a hearing when the Virginia General Assembly briefly reconvenes Wednesday to address the governor’s vetoes and amendments to bills passed during the regular session that ended Feb. 23.

Mr. Fairfax maintains that he did nothing wrong and that the sex with both women was consensual.

Bucking resignation calls from fellow Democrats, Mr. Fairfax said he is the victim of a political hit job and a rush to judgment that he called a “political lynching.”

“If you have to hold someone down, it’s not consensual,” Ms. Watson said in the tearful interview.

She said Mr. Fairfax raped her in a premeditated attack in 2000, when they were students at Duke University.

Ms. Tyson, a political science professor at Scripps College in California, accused Mr. Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him when they met as campaign aides at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

“Sexual assault should never be a racial issue. It should never be a partisan issue,” Ms. Tyson said in an emotional interview aired Monday.

Mr. Cox said House Republicans offered to work with Democrats to organize a bipartisan hearing but were rebuffed by House Democratic leader Eileen Filler-Corn.

“We do not believe that the House of Delegates, or any selection of legislators, is the appropriate body to hear these serious allegations,” Ms. Filler-Corn wrote in a letter to Delegate Rob Bell, chairman of the House Courts Committee, which would conduct the hearing.

Ms. Filler-Corn did not respond to The Washington Times’ questions about Mr. Cox’s statement.

The rape allegations added to a whirl of scandal that swept up Virginia’s top elected Democrats this year, with Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Harris both accused of racism for wearing blackface in the 1980s. Ms. Tyson came forward with her story as pressure mounted on Mr. Northam to resign and Mr. Fairfax appeared poised to ascend to the governor’s mansion.

The pressure on Mr. Fairfax to step down also came from state and national Democratic leaders, including the party’s 2020 presidential contenders.

A Fairfax spokesman said he voluntarily took a polygraph test Friday and passed every question regarding each allegation by Ms. Watson and Ms. Tyson. He released a summary of the lie detector test results.

In a statement, Mr. Fairfax expressed sympathy for the emotional distress suffered by the two women: “I am able to hear the pain expressed, a pain I hope they are able to resolve and heal. However, because I never assaulted either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, I know that my actions cannot be the source of that pain.”In the CBS interview, Ms. Watson said that she and Mr. Fairfax had a platonic friendship and the attack was unexpected.

Mr. Fairfax invited her to his room one evening to hang out, which they had done on many occasions without incident. This time he locked the door, turned off the lights and attacked her, holding her down as she attempted to get away, said Ms. Watson.

“He did things that you shouldn’t do to someone without their permission, and I tried several times to get up and leave and was pushed back down,” said Ms. Watson, tears in her eyes. “He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me.”

Ms. Watson said she and Ms. Tyson, who both are black, were disparaged by other blacks because they spoke out against Mr. Fairfax, who also is black.

“You are seen as betraying your race. You are seen as betraying black men,” she said. “But there is no recognition that a black man has betrayed you.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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