- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Sen. Sherrod Brown said Tuesday that he doesn’t know if people should believe the woman who accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of rape.

“I don’t know anything. I don’t know. It sounds like a question from The Washington Times,” Mr. Brown, an Ohio Democrat eyeing a 2020 presidential run, said when asked about it outside the Senate chamber.

Other lawmakers were just as eager to avoid questions about Mr. Fairfax’s accuser, California political science professor Vanessa Tyson, whose allegations have created a thorny problem for politicians who just months ago were demanding that victims must be believed. At that time, the issue was uncorroborated accusations of sexual assault made against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Now it’s Mr. Fairfax, a Democrat who is in line to become governor of Virginia should Gov. Ralph Northam succumb to the furor over a racist photo from his past.

Mr. Fairfax admits to a sexual encounter with Ms. Tyson in 2004, at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, but denies her claims that he forced her into performing oral sex.

In Virginia, Democrats said the allegations should be probed.

“The facts here are still being determined. Every individual deserves the opportunity to be heard, and we respect anyone who comes forward to share their story,” the Democratic caucuses in the state General Assembly said in a joint statement.

But on Capitol Hill, lawmakers couldn’t move quickly enough to distance themselves from questions.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, when asked who he believed.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat whose handling of Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford drew condemnation from all sides, was saved from weighing in on Mr. Fairfax by an aide, who shouted “You don’t need to comment on Virginia politics” as reporters attempted to ask her questions.

“I’m not going to get into that. Thank you,” said Ms. Feinstein.

Ms. Tyson has hired a legal team — the same that represented Ms. Blasey Ford.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Democrats had a double-standard for sexual misconduct allegations.

“[Democrats] only believe, I guess, those accusations if they’re against Republicans,” Mrs. Sanders told Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Before Ms. Tyson went public with her identity late Tuesday, Sen. Tim Kaine said her anonymity made it a completely different situation.

“She hasn’t made an accusation,” Mr. Kaine, Virginia Democrat, told reporters at the Capitol. “Any person who has a claim needs to be given the time to decide whether to come forward with their claim. So you have to wait for that.”

Mr. Kaine’s office did not immediately respond to questions about Ms. Tyson going public with her accusation.

The allegations against Justice Kavanaugh also started as anonymous claims.

Ms. Blasey Ford said she only went public with her story that Justice Kavanaugh assaulted her at a high school party when they were teenagers after it was clear that reporters were sniffing around.

Ms. Tyson also was being pursued by news organizations, including The Washington Times, which withheld her name until she made it public on Tuesday.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Democrat, refused to weigh in on the particular issues of the Virginia scandal, but she advocated for an investigation into all sexual misconduct complaints.

“I think anything should be investigated and I really have no opinion on it,” she said. “If there is an allegation, they should investigate it.”

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