Justin Fairfax Faces Eroding Support from Democrats After New Accuser Speaks

Politics

A second woman came forward Friday with claims that she had been sexually assaulted by Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax of Virginia, intensifying the weeklong political crisis in the state and leading top fellow Democrats to call for Mr. Fairfax to resign.

The woman, Meredith Watson, accused Mr. Fairfax of raping her in 2000 while they were students at Duke University, saying in a statement that his actions were “premeditated and aggressive” and demanding that he step down immediately.

Ms. Watson spoke out two days after Vanessa C. Tyson, a political science professor from California, said she was assaulted by Mr. Fairfax during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

By Friday night, Mr. Fairfax was facing a wave of calls for his resignation. Democrats in the Virginia House and Senate urged him to step down, saying he “could no longer fulfill his duties to the commonwealth,” as did the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, a powerful bloc within the General Assembly. Patrick Hope, a Democrat in the Virginia House, said he would introduce articles of impeachment on Monday if the lieutenant governor had not resigned.

The list of nationally prominent Democrats who have said Mr. Fairfax must step down includes former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California, all 2020 presidential candidates.

They were joined by Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who said in a Twitter statement posted at 11 p.m. Friday that the accusations against Mr. Fairfax “detail atrocious crimes.”

Mr. Fairfax has denied both accusations and said Ms. Watson’s was “demonstrably false.” He vowed he would not resign.

“I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” Mr. Fairfax said. “Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”

After days of intense pressure on the state’s Democratic governor and attorney general over past incidents when they wore blackface, the spotlight swung quickly to Mr. Fairfax, who only days ago had been preparing for the possibility of becoming the state’s second African-American governor if Gov. Ralph Northam bowed to calls to resign.

Virginia’s political turmoil is complicated by its history as the onetime heart of the Confederacy. Mr. Northam and the attorney general, Mark Herring, have admitted wearing blackface in the 1980s. Many Democrats have been calling for Mr. Northam to resign, but some have offered words of support for Mr. Herring.

There is no clear succession plan should Mr. Fairfax resign. The last vacancy occurred in 1971, when Lt. Gov. J. Sargent Reynolds died and a special election was held to fill the vacancy.

Still, Virginia Democrats have started discussing possible Fairfax replacements, with many mentioning State Senator Jennifer McClellan. Ms. McClellan is a veteran African-American legislator from Richmond who is widely thought to have statewide aspirations.

Nancy Erika Smith, a lawyer for Ms. Watson, said in the statement outlining her client’s allegations that Ms. Watson was coming forward out of a sense of civic duty after learning about the allegation by Dr. Tyson.

“The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson,” Ms. Smith said.

Ms. Smith provided an email exchange between Ms. Watson and a friend from Duke, Milagros Joye Brown, in which Ms. Watson tells her friend not to include her on correspondence regarding Mr. Fairfax because he had raped her in college.

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In an interview, Ms. Smith recounted her client’s claim that Mr. Fairfax assaulted her during spring break in 2000 at the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity house at Duke.

“It was her sophomore year at Duke and his senior year, and they were hanging out,’’ Ms. Smith said. “They had never dated. She had dated one of his friends. They did not have a romantic relationship. He gets up and walks out. Comes back in. Shuts off the light and locks the door. She knew things were going south when he locked the door.”

Ms. Smith said that her client did not seek medical attention or go to the police or the university administration and that Ms. Watson perceived Mr. Fairfax as a politically influential figure on campus.

A college friend of Ms. Watson’s, Kaneedreck Adams, said in an interview that Ms. Watson told her she was raped the day after she said it happened, and named Mr. Fairfax as her assailant.

“She was upset, she was kind of crying quietly and she said that she had been raped” by Mr. Fairfax, Ms. Adams said.

“I said, ‘Did you say no?’ and she said, no she couldn’t say no,” Ms. Adams said. “And she said she was trying to get out of there, get away, remove herself from the situation, and she said Justin kept pushing her down.”

Ms. Watson, who has worked as a fund-raising consultant for nonprofit companies, would not be conducting interviews discussing her allegations, a spokeswoman said.

Before Ms. Watson came forward, Mr. Fairfax had been grappling with Dr. Tyson’s allegation and repeatedly insisting that he had been falsely accused and that no corroboration existed.

But in interviews with The New York Times this week, six people said that Dr. Tyson told them over the last two years that she had been sexually assaulted at the convention, and that her account was consistent with her public statement this week. The people said she provided varying levels of detail, but three of them said she identified the assailant as either a lieutenant governor or a politician on the rise or specifically as Mr. Fairfax.

Two professors currently joining Dr. Tyson in a prestigious fellowship at Stanford told The Times that she recounted the 2004 episode with Mr. Fairfax to them last fall, saying he had sexually assaulted her.

“What she told us was pretty much exactly what was in the statement that she released but with vastly less detail,” said Elizabeth A. Armstrong, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan.

Another fellow, Jennifer J. Freyd, a University of Oregon professor known for her work studying sexual violence, also remembers the conversation, relaying that Dr. Tyson described how the incident was “clearly a traumatic experience.”

Dr. Tyson did not tell anyone in 2004 about the encounter with Mr. Fairfax, according to people close to her legal team, and she did not notify the police or file a complaint.

There has been an outpouring of encouragement for Dr. Tyson, 42, who has taught at Scripps College in California and Dickinson College in Pennsylvania over the last decade, and earned a Ph.D in political science from the University of Chicago.

More than 740 academics have signed a letter of support for her, according to its organizer, Nadia E. Brown, a political scientist at Purdue University, who said Dr. Tyson also told her that she was assaulted. A GoFundMe account, set up by a political scientist at Menlo College in California, had raised more than $20,000 as of Friday morning.

“Everything she said in her statement was exactly what she told me when we talked,” said Diane L. Rosenfeld, a founding director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School, who said Dr. Tyson told her of the alleged assault in December 2017.

“She’s not doing this for any fame,” Dr. Rosenfeld added. “She’s not suing him for money, so disbelievers and doubters can’t say, ‘Oh, she just wants money.’ She just wants, as she says, the Virginia voters to know who this person is.”

Dr. Tyson has declined to give an interview to The Times. She has said she was spurred to come forward by the realization that Mr. Fairfax might soon become Virginia governor.

In her statement, Dr. Tyson described a forced sexual encounter with Mr. Fairfax in a Boston hotel room while the two were working at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. It began with kissing that was “not unwelcome,” she said, but quickly escalated into non-consensual oral sex.

At the time of the alleged assault, Dr. Tyson was volunteering at a Boston rape crisis center. She had helped start the center’s Survivor Speakers Bureau, where she shared her story about being sexually abused as a child.

In separate interviews Thursday and Friday, five friends of Dr. Tyson said she told them of the encounter either in late 2017, early 2018 or last fall. On Friday, after The Times published its article on Dr. Tyson’s supporters, a sixth woman came forward to say Dr. Tyson had also confided in her. Susan J. McWilliams, a politics professor at Pomona College in California, said that in a conversation around the time of Mr. Fairfax’s election as lieutenant governor in 2017, Dr. Tyson told her that he had assaulted her during the 2004 convention.

“I did not know who Justin Fairfax was,” Dr. McWilliams said. “And I immediately went home and Googled him.”

The Stanford fellowship that Ms. Tyson began last fall is merely her latest academic accomplishment after a working-class upbringing in the Los Angeles area, the biracial daughter of a single white mother. Dr. Tyson graduated from Princeton in 1998 and would later tell The Princeton Alumni Weekly that she identified as African-American partly because that was the way the world saw her. “I am biracial, but I could not pass for white,” she said.

She would go on to obtain a masters and doctorate, both in political science, at the University of Chicago.

In a statement issued Thursday, Scripps College in California, where Dr. Tyson is a professor of politics, confirmed that Dr. Tyson “shared with several members of the Scripps community the details about a 2004 sexual assault,” and that those conversations “are consistent” with her written account.

Friends describe Dr. Tyson as gregarious, and a mentor to younger scholars, particularly people of color. “Academics are socially awkward people,” Dr. Brown said. “We tend to be a lot more introspective and quiet and reserved, and she pulls people out of their shells.”

Dr. Freyd, the Oregon professor who is also doing a fellowship at Stanford, said that she and Dr. Tyson have become close despite having known each other for only a few months. On Thursday, Dr. Freyd joined 35 other fellows at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences to support her.

Next Tuesday, Drs. Tyson and Freyd are planning a symposium at Stanford — arranged well before Dr. Tyson disclosed her allegations. It is titled “Betrayal and Courage in the Age of #MeToo.”

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