Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said the timing of an effort to “smear” his good name is no coincidence as he responded Monday to reporters’ questions about whether he believed that embattled Gov. Ralph Northam may be pushing a false sexual assault claim in an attempt to derail his rise to the governorship.
“Does anybody think it is any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that’s when this smear comes out?” Fairfax said during a news conference at the state Capitol when asked by a reporter if he thought Northam, a fellow Democrat, was behind a leaked sexual assault allegation. He also hinted at Richmond mayor and potential political rival Levar Stoney as a possible source of the damning story, according to The New York Times.
“I don’t think anybody believes that’s a coincidence,” he added, noting The Washington Post investigated the claim a year ago and declined to publish it after determining “it was uncorroborated because it was not true.”
Fairfax later backed off the assertion as he left the Capitol that night, telling reporters he had “no indication” Northam’s team was behind the accusations, while a spokesman for Stoney described the suggestion that the Richmond mayor might be trying to undermine Fairfax as “this insinuation is 100 percent not true.” Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor would rise to the top spot should Northam resign, which is an increasing possibility as the governor faces calls to step down after photos on his page in his 1984 medical school class yearbook depicting someone in blackface and someone else in a KKK robe surfaced last week.
Northam initially apologized for the offensive photo, then denied he was in it.
The new sexual assault claims against Fairfax were published in a Sunday night post on right-wing website Big League Politics, which first reported Northam’s damning yearbook photo. Although Fairfax isn’t explicitly named, a woman claims a man fitting the lieutenant governor’s description sexually assaulted her in a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegations and described his encounter with the woman as “consensual.”
In a Monday article, The Washington Post acknowledged it was approached by the woman in 2017 and carefully looked into her claims. The newspaper included graphic details of the alleged assault but said it was unable to confirm her account, noting the woman had never told anyone about what happened prior to her contacting The Post. The accuser hasn’t been named.
Fairfax’s camp has previously asserted that The Post decided against publishing the story after it found “significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,” however, the newspaper disputed this, calling the claim “incorrect.”
“Fairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present,” the paper stated. “The Washington Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version.”
In a statement, Fairfax argued that “not one other reputable media outlet has seen fit to air this false claim” before it was published on Big League Politics and accused The Washington Post of “smearing an elected official.” “Only now, during a time of intense media attention surrounding Virginia politics, has this false claim been raised again.”
“The Lt. Governor will take appropriate legal action against those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation,” it continued.
Fairfax’s accuser is lawyering up as well. NPR reported Tuesday that the woman has retained Washington firm Katz, Marshall and Banks — the same firm that represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in her allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.