By Daniel Berti
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. — The woman who accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2004 has come forward and released a statement outlining her allegations against Fairfax.
Vanessa Tyson, a political science professor at Scripps College in California, described her assault in graphic detail in a written statement issued by her legal representatives Katz, Marshall and Banks. It is the same firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Brett Kavanaugh of assault during his confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tyson said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him in his hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where they were both working.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into sexual assault,” Tyson wrote. “To be clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent.”
Tyson first brought the allegations to The Washington Post shortly after Fairfax was elected lieutenant governor in 2017, but the story was never published. Then, in January 2018, Fairfax retained the law firm of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz — the same law firm that represented Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings.
According to The Post, Fairfax and Tyson “told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present,” and the newspaper couldn’t find anyone who could corroborate either version.
Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegations and called the accusation a smear campaign meant to derail his possible elevation to governor. Gov. Ralph Northam is under increasing pressure to resign because of a racist picture in his medical school yearbook — if he does, Fairfax would become the next governor of Virginia.
In a statement Monday, Fairfax’s chief of staff, Lawrence Roberts, called the Tyson’s claim “unsubstantiated” and said The Post had decided not to report the story in 2017 because there were “significant red flags and inconsistencies” surrounding the woman’s accusations.
Fairfax is married and a father of four, but he was single in 2004 when the alleged assault happened. He told reporters Monday that the sex was consensual.
On Monday evening, The Post challenged Fairfax’s earlier statement and said its reporters did not find any significant red flags and inconsistencies with the allegation when it was raised in 2017.
Tyson said that part of the reason she decided to issue a public statement about the matter was to clear her name. “Mr. Fairfax’s suggestion that The Washington Post found me not to be credible was deceitful, offensive and profoundly upsetting,” she wrote.
“I have never wavered in my account because I am telling the truth,” Tyson added.
The National Organization for Women called on Fairfax to resign Wednesday afternoon, saying that Tyson made a “brave decision” to come forward.
“Her story is horrifying, compelling and clear as day — and we believe her,” said NOW President Toni Van Pelt. “We believe and support survivors.”
In a statement Monday night, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it “takes all allegations of sexual assault or misconduct with the utmost seriousness.”
“Given the recent allegations regarding Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the VLBC will continue to assess this developing situation as more details become available,” the group’s statement added.
Tuesday afternoon, the Democratic Party of Virginia said that “all allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity” and that the party will continue to “evaluate the claims against Fairfax.”
In her statement, Tyson credited the #MeToo movement for motivating her to come forward with her story.
“The courage of so many women coming forward to confront powerful men and systems that allow such abuse to occur are part of what inspired me to action,” Tyson wrote.