Virginia lieutenant governor says timing suspect for ‘smear’ allegations against him – POLITICO
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said Monday that it’s no coincidence an uncorroborated sexual assault accusation from more than a decade ago has emerged right as he potentially could be elevated to the state’s governorship.
The accusation surfaced Sunday night on the fledgling conservative website Big League Politics, the same site that on Friday unearthed a racist photo on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page that has gravely imperiled his governorship.
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Fairfax first responded to the allegations in a statement posted to Twitter at about 3 a.m. on Monday in which he threatened legal action against “those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation.”
The statement, attributed to his chief of staff and communications director, said that Fairfax was aware of the accusation against him and that his accuser had approached The Washington Post before his inauguration last year. It said that The Post “carefully investigated the claim for several months” and decided not to publish a story “after being presented with facts inconsistent” with Fairfax’s denial, “the absence of any evidence corroborating the allegation, and significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations.”
In a news conference Monday in Richmond, Fairfax said he wasn’t sure why the accusations had resurfaced, but he said the timing was was suspect.
“Does anybody think it’s any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that’s when this uncorroborated smear comes out?” he asked. “Does anybody believe that’s a coincidence? I don’t think anybody believes that’s a coincidence, again, particularly with something — this is not the first time this was brought up.”
He asserted that The Post investigated the account for three months before it “dropped the story” because it was uncorroborated.
“It’s uncorroborated because it’s not true,” he said, adding that “you don’t have to be cynical, you don’t have to understand politics to understand when someone is trying to manipulate a process to harm someone’s character without any basis.”
On Monday, the Post acknowledged that it had looked into the allegations, but took issue with Fairfax’s claim that it found “significant red flags and inconsistencies.”
The accusations center on a sexual encounter that both parties acknowledge took place in a hotel room in 2004, though, through an attorney, Fairfax said that the encounter was consensual, according to the Post.
“Fairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present” and ultimately “The Washington Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version,” reporter Theresa Vargas wrote in an article published Monday.
“The Post did not find ‘significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,’ as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said,” Vargas added.
In the news conference Monday afternoon, Fairfax told reporters that there were no texts or emails between him and his accuser, and called the accusation “not only from left field, it was from planet Mars because it didn’t happen in the way it was described.”
He said that he’d spoken with his accuser once by phone since the initial encounter and provided The Post with “ample evidence of the inconsistencies in the story,” including a story.
Fairfax added that he believes his accuser’s story should be heard, and said that it was a “shame” her story had “been weaponized and used as a smear.”
But he also claimed that “she was heard by The Washington Post and The Washington Post didn’t believe her,” though that defense doesn’t track with The Post’s explanation for not publishing the claims.
In another statement released Monday afternoon, Fairfax said that The Post, “acknowledging that it had no corroboration, just smeared an elected official.“
“This type of smear is what we meant when we said that politics and the coverage of it needs to rise to a higher level that benefits our country and the 400-year history of our Commonwealth,“ he said in the statement. “This is what we meant when we said that people who continue to spread these false allegations will be sued.“
Big League Politics did not speak to Fairfax’s accuser, but reposted the claims of a tipster who claimed to have permission from the accuser to share her private Facebook post cryptically referring to a 2004 assault without mentioning Fairfax by name.
The site, which was founded by a former Breitbart and Daily Caller reporter, acknowledged over the weekend its partiality to “America First Trumpism.”
Fairfax faces the growing possibility that he could soon assume the governorship in Virginia if Northam bows to pressure from the highest echelons of the Democratic Party over the racist photo. Northam is adamant that he is neither the man pictured in a Ku Klux Klan outfit nor the man in blackface who appears on his page, but has said he appeared in blackface on a separate occasion in the past.
Fairfax has stopped short of calling for Northam’s resignation, but said he was “shocked and saddened” by the photo.
The Post reported that as the scandal first unfolded, Fairfax “called his wife and two young children to prepare them for the possibility of relocating to Richmond,” and on Monday he only allowed that “we are always prepared and will continue to prepare” to step in as governor.