Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) released the following statement Tuesday regarding a potential hearing on the sexual assault allegations against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.
“For the last two days, we have watched excruciating first-hand accounts from two survivors of sexual assault who allege that Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax assaulted and raped them in separate incidents in the early 2000s.
“Over the course of the last few weeks, we have communicated with attorneys representing Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Ms. Meredith Watson. Through those conversations, they have told us that Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson are prepared to share their accounts at a legislative hearing, but only if there is bipartisan cooperation to conduct the hearing.
“In February, Republicans in the House of Delegates offered to work with our Democratic colleagues to establish a bipartisan subcommittee of the House Courts Committee with an equal number of members from both parties to hold a hearing. In February, some of our Democratic colleagues stated their opposition to a hearing, but Democratic leadership said it was wary to commit without knowing the specifics of the proposal.
“In a March 25 letter to Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, House Courts Committee Chairman Rob Bell laid out a specific set of parameters for a bipartisan hearing. Chairman Bell said in his letter that he hoped this proposal “would provide the bipartisan path forward” that the survivors are seeking, and said he would welcome ‘any counter-proposal that would create a bipartisan process to allow the three witnesses to testify, present evidence, and answer questions.’
“Unfortunately, despite the compelling accounts we have heard from Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson on television in recent days, Delegate Filler-Corn has made clear that she will not agree to a bipartisan General Assembly hearing of any nature. In a letter to Chairman Bell, she said, ‘we do not believe that the House of Delegates, or any selection of legislators, is the appropriate body to hear these serious allegations.’
“There should be no mistake about what has happened here: the alleged victims are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Republicans are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Democrats in the House of Delegates are refusing to allow that to happen.
“Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson have said that they rightfully do not want their stories turned into partisan fodder and we wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, it appears that two survivors of sexual assault will be denied an opportunity to be heard in the bipartisan hearing they are requesting solely because Democrats in the House of Delegates are refusing to participate.
“We stand ready to proceed, and hope that our Democratic colleagues reconsider the consequences of their decision.”