After two women went on national television and accused him of sexual assault, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax on Wednesday released the results of polygraph examinations that he said exonerate him.
At a press conference in his office, Fairfax asked prosecutors to investigate the allegations and pledged his full cooperation.
“These allegations, if true, would be incredibly serious,” Fairfax said. “Because they are not true, however, they are incredibly hurtful to me and my family and my reputation, which I have spent a lifetime building.” In February, a woman named Vanessa Tyson went public with an allegation against Fairfax, saying she had been forced into an oral sex act in a Boston hotel room while the two were attending the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Then a second woman named Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of raping her while the two were students at Duke University in 2000.
Since the women went public with their accusations, Fairfax has maintained that he is innocent and the victim of a “vicious and coordinated smear campaign.” In a speech on the floor of the state Senate, Fairfax compared himself to the victims of lynchings in the Jim Crow era. In separate interviews with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” on Monday and Tuesday, Tyson and Watson shared their stories with a national audience.
At the news conference, Fairfax said he does not believe television interviews are the right vehicle to get at the truth.
“Sensationalizing allegations does not make them true,” Fairfax said. “Yet, airing salacious allegations without evidence does enormous damage.”
Fairfax then spoke about the accusations individually, saying both sexual encounters were entirely consensual. Fairfax was single when he met Watson and Tyson. Now 40, he is married and the father of two children.
“I have heard Dr. Tyson say that I held her neck and physically forced her to engage in sexual contact,” Fairfax said. “That is simply not true.”
In addressing Watson’s allegation, Fairfax stated that the two “were both willing participants.”
“At no time, before, during or after our encounter did she ever say or do anything that suggested to me in any way that she believed that she thought anything that happened between us was something she had not wanted or that she was uncomfortable with,” Fairfax said. The lieutenant governor then announced he was happy to release the results of polygraph examinations that he passed with respect to the allegations.
“Today, I am providing the full report of my polygraph examinations to the media so that all Virginians can read the report themselves,” Fairfax said.
The examinations, conducted by Hanafin Polygraph Services of Arlington, included questions such as “Did you engage in any non-consensual activity with Vanessa?” and “Did Meredith give you any physical or verbal indication she did not want to have sexual contact with you?” The report concludes with a statement from Alan J. Jennerich of the American Polygraph Association. Jennerich stated that in his professional opinion, “Fairfax’s responses to the above relevant questions are not indicative of deception.”
Fairfax repeated his request for investigations by law enforcement professionals. He noted that his attorney has contacted the district attorney’s offices in Boston, Massachusetts, and Durham, North Carolina.
“My attorney has made clear to both offices that I will cooperate fully in these investigations and has told each office that I will myself available to them to answer any and all questions they might have, including under oath and penalty of perjury,” Fairfax said.
Fairfax ended the press conference by saying he is looking forward to clearing his name and returning to work for the people of Virginia. He left the podium promptly and did not respond to questions hurled at him by reporters as he exited the room.
The allegations against Fairfax, who as lieutenant governor presides over the Virginia Senate, have become a political issue at the state Capitol.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican, said attorneys for Tyson and Watson indicated that the women “are prepared to share their accounts at a legislative hearing, but only if there is bipartisan cooperation to conduct the hearing.”
Del. Rob Bell, a Charlottesville Republican who chairs the House Courts of Justice Committee, sent a letter to the House Democratic leader, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax County, proposing that the panel invite Tyson, Watson and the lieutenant governor to testify.
“Unfortunately, despite the compelling accounts we have heard from Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson on television in recent days, Del. Filler-Corn has made clear that she will not agree to a bipartisan General Assembly hearing of any nature,” Cox said. In a letter to Bell, Filler-Corn called the allegations against Fairfax “extremely serious” and noted that the House Democratic Caucus has called on him to resign.
“Law enforcement officials are best equipped to investigate these matters, and we certainly would not want to harm their inquiries or deny due process to either the complainants or the Lieutenant Governor by conducting a hearing that could easily be exploited for political purposes,” Filler-Corn’s letter said.
It added that “we do not believe that the House of Delegates, or any selection of legislators, is the appropriate body to hear these serious allegations.”
In a statement Wednesday, Filler-Corn said the allegations against Fairfax “transcend party.”
“And while our Republican colleagues claim to have worked for a bipartisan path forward, time and again they have proven that the media headlines are more important to them than due process or justice,” she said.
“Each of the Republicans’ supposed attempts at bipartisanship have been nothing more than a gimmick to generate partisan fodder in the news and on social media.”
By Kal Weinstein