Fenit Nirappil, Washington Post, April 2, 2019
Meredith Watson, one of two women who have accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault, on Tuesday urged the state legislature to hold a public hearing on the allegations during her first televised interview.
Watson says Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2000 when both were undergraduate students at Duke University. Her television appearance comes a day after the CBS program aired an interview with Vanessa Tyson, who accused the lieutenant governor of forcing her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
The women made their allegations public in early February when it appeared Fairfax might succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who was considering resigning over an unrelated scandal over a racist photo from his past and an admission that he wore blackface as a young man for a dance contest.
Fairfax, a 40-year-old lawyer, has denied the assault allegations and said the encounters were consensual. His aides on Sunday said he voluntarily took and passed two polygraph tests that they said prove the allegations are false.
Both women want the Virginia state legislature to hold an unprecedented public hearing in which they and Fairfax would testify under oath. Republican lawmakers said in late February they would invite the women to testify, but Democrats and Fairfax have resisted the idea. Lawmakers return to Richmond on Wednesday for a one-day session to finish legislative work.
Watson said she was “very good friends” with Fairfax as undergraduate students at Duke University.
She said Fairfax invited her to hang out in his room, but then locked the door and turned off the light before advancing on her while she was on a couch.
“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 Watson. “He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me.”
Watson said she told two of her closest friends at the time that Fairfax assaulted her.
There is no statute of limitations for felony sexual assault in North Carolina. The Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry reached out to Watson’s attorney in February, but Watson’s team has said she is not interested in filing a criminal complaint.
“She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life,” said Nancy Erika Smith, Watson’s attorney, in a February statement.
Fairfax has invoked race while defending himself from the assault allegations, likening himself to lynching victims at times. Both Watson and Tyson are black.
Watson said she felt some pressure to keep quiet, so as not to damage the reputation of a black public figure.