Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia said during a Democratic gubernatorial debate on Tuesday, April 6, that he was given “no due process” after being accused of sexual misconduct in 2019. He also claimed he was treated like George Floyd and Emmett Till as those around him “assumed my guilt.”
“I was falsely accused in 2019,” said Fairfax, a Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, while on stage at the historically Black Virginia State University. Fairfax took to the stage alongside fellow candidates Terry McAuliffe, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Lee Carter and Jennifer McClellan.
“Everyone on the stage called for my immediate resignation, including Terry McAuliffe, three minutes after the press release came out.”
Fairfax kicked off his campaign for governor in September 2020, a year after he faced two sexual assault allegations.
Meredith Watson, a woman who attended Duke University with Fairfax, alleged he had raped her in 2000. Vanessa Tyson, a Scripps College professor, claimed Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Fairfax denied the claims and repeatedly characterized the allegations as a smear campaign intended to end his political career. He claims he had consensual encounters with both women. Fairfax, elected lieutenant governor in 2017, is the second Black person elected to a statewide office in Virginia. He has repeatedly likened the allegations against him to lynchings of the Jim Crow era. No criminal investigation was conducted into the allegations.
On Tuesday, Fairfax recalled “a history in Virginia” in which Black men weren’t afforded due process.
“The murder of George Floyd was horrific,” Fairfax said. “But it recalls a history in Virginia and in our nation where African Americans, in particular African-American men, are presumed to be guilty, are treated inhumanely, are given no due process and have their lives impacted, in some cases taken away in an instant.”
Fairfax said McAuliffe “treated me like George Floyd. He treated me like Emmett Till. No due process. Immediately assumed my guilt.” Till was just 14 years old when he was murdered in 1955 after a white woman made false accusations against him. McAuliffe did not respond to the remarks.
His comments were unprompted and followed a question about the ongoing trial for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd.
Fairfax filed a $400 million defamation lawsuit against CBS after the network aired interviews featuring the two women who made the allegations against him. A federal judge dismissed the suit in early 2020, but Fairfax filed an appeal about six months later. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond began reviewing the suit in March.
The debate was mostly focused on issues related to how the pandemic and continued vaccine rollout should be handled; student loan debt, voting rights, marijuana legalization and the cost of child care.
The Virginia gubernatorial election will take place in November. Gov. Ralph Northam cannot run for reelection because the Virginia Constitution prohibits governors from serving two successive terms.