In a statement released Wednesday, Dr. Vanessa Tyson accused Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004. "What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault," she said, describing how Fairfax allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him. She added: "After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame."
Fairfax, who could become the state's next governor after the Ralph Northam blackface controversy, has denied the allegations. The conservative website Big League Politics first reported that Tyson, a professor, had accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, MA. She reportedly shared the allegation on Facebook with a friend; Big League Politics said it obtained the post with her permission.
“Imagine you were sexually assaulted during the DNC convention in Boston in 2004 by a campaign staffer,” she reportedly wrote in her post. “You spend the next 13 years trying to forget it ever happened. Until one day you find out he’s the Democratic candidate for statewide office in a state 3,000 miles away, and he wins that election in November 2017. Then by strange, horrible luck, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll get a VERY BIG promotion.”
The Washington Post reported on Monday that a woman who accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004 approached the paper, but the publication was unable to corroborate her account so it didn't publish the story. Tyson confirmed in her statement that she had been interviewed by a reporter at the Post about the allegations ahead of Fairfax's swearing in.
In a statement Monday, Fairfax denied the allegations, saying he "never assaulted anyone — ever — in any way, shape, or form."
But Tyson said in her statement it was important for her to speak out. "With tremendous anguish, I am now sharing this information about my experience and setting the record straight," she said. "It has been extremely difficult to relive that traumatic experience from 2004. Mr. Fairfax has tried to brand me as a liar to a national audience, in service to his political ambitions, and has threatened litigation. Given his false assertions, I’m compelled to make clear what happened."
Fairfax is second in line for governor of Virginia, expected to take over for Gov. Ralph Northam as calls for him to resign intensify after the discovery of Northam’s racist 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook photo. The photo shows a man wearing blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe.
This story was originally published on February 5, 2019. It has since been updated.