IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Second woman accuses Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault

"It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me. I will not resign,” the Virginia Democrat responded in a defiant statement denying the allegation.
Get more newsLiveon

RICHMOND, Va. — A second woman accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, an allegation he quickly denied Friday but that nonetheless prompted a spate of calls from prominent political figures for him to resign.

In a statement from her lawyer Friday, Meredith Watson alleged that Fairfax raped her when they were both students at Duke University in 2000. She called on Fairfax, a Democrat, to resign.

The "attack was premeditated and aggressive," said the lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith of the firm of Smith Mullin in Montclair, New Jersey. She described Fairfax and Watson as friends who never dated.

"Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession," Smith said in the statement. "Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her."

Earlier this week, Fairfax denied an accusation from Vanessa Tyson that he forced her to perform oral sex on him during the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. On Friday, he issued a statement pushing back on the latest allegation as well.

“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation. It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever," Fairfax said. "I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth."

"I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full, field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before," he added. "It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me. I will not resign.”

Smith said the details of Watson's experience with Fairfax were "similar to those" described by Tyson, who recounted kissing Fairfax willingly but being physically forced, while gagging and crying, into more intimate contact. Fairfax has said his liaison with Tyson was entirely consensual.

"On behalf of our client, we have notified Justin Fairfax through his attorneys that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office," Smith said.

Later Friday, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is considering a run for the Democratic presidential nomination, called on Fairfax to resign, as did New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who is already in that race, and Virginia Democratic Reps. Don Beyer, Donald McEachin, Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly.

McAuliffe said in a statement that the claims were "serious and credible" and that they warranted Fairfax's "immediate resignation."

Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Va., said on Twitter that he planned to introduce articles of impeachment for Fairfax on Monday "if he has not resigned before then." Later Friday, Democratic lawmakers in the Virginia House and state senate issued a joint statement calling for Fairfax to tender his resignation.

"Due to the serious nature of these allegations, we believe Lieutenant Governor Fairfax can no longer fulfill his duties to the Commonwealth," it read. "He needs to address this as a private citizen. The time has come for him to step down."

Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine also added their voices to the growing chorus.

"Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth. We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault,” Kaine said in a statement.

Warner called on Fairfax to 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. 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," he said in a statement.

Geoff Bennett reported from Richmond, and Jon Allen from Washington.