A judge has tossed out a libel lawsuit filed by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax against a television network he accused of slanted reporting on sexual assault allegations levied against him.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga in Alexandria dismissed the case against CBS on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.
Fairfax filed the $400 million lawsuit in September 2019 after CBS News aired interviews with two women who accused him of sexually assaulting them more than 15 years ago.
CBS News anchor Gayle King interviewed both Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson in early 2019, where they described their encounters with Fairfax. He said the encounters were consensual.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, said Fairfax's character was defamed and says CBS intentionally inflicted emotional distress on him.
In the lawsuit, Fairfax alleged CBS News had information before the stories aired “indicating that both allegations had not been corroborated by any independent investigation. Yes, CBS recklessly disregarded whether what Watson and Tyson were saying was, in fact, true.”
Lawyers for CBS defended the network's journalism and accused Fairfax of using the lawsuit to attack his accusers.
Fairfax said he will appeal and provided News 3 with the following statement:
“While we respect the court’s ruling, we disagree with it. We believe that we met the correct legal standard for a defamation claim and alleged plenty of specific facts in support of my claim. We look forward to appealing the ruling on the motion to dismiss and view this is as a significant step forward in establishing that Meredith Watson fabricated her claim of rape and sexual assault and that Vanessa Tyson fabricated her claim of sexual assault.”
“It is still undisputed that there was an eyewitness present during the encounter with Meredith Watson and that this eyewitness has told other people that Ms. Watson’s claim of rape and sexual assault is completely fabricated. Meredith Watson has not disputed that fact. Her lawyer Nancy Erika Smith has not disputed that fact. CBS has not disputed that fact. It is also undisputed that Vanessa Tyson’s claim is also uncorroborated by others.”