Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax talks to reporters in the Capitol last week after sexual assault allegations were made against him. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Virginia Democrats issued statements in response to an allegation that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted a woman in 2004.

“The facts here are still being determined,” the House and Senate Democratic caucuses said. “Every individual deserves the opportunity to be heard, and we respect anyone who comes forward to share their story.”

The Virginia Democratic Party said “all allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity.

“We will continue to evaluate the claims regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said Monday that it “takes all allegations of sexual assault or misconduct with the utmost seriousness.”

The caucus said it would “continue to assess the developing situation as more details become available.”

Fairfax has denied the allegation and said his encounter with the woman was consensual.

Fairfax seemed poised to take over the governership after a photo of two men — one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan robe — was found on Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page last week.

National and state Democrats called for his resignation. Fairfax, who would take over if Northam resigned, did not explicitly call for Northam’s resignation.

Late Sunday, a story began circulating that Fairfax sexually assaulted a woman at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

The Washington Post wrote the allegation first came to light during Fairfax’s campaign, but the newspaper couldn’t find any evidence to prove it did or didn’t happen.

Fairfax denied the story and has implied that other politicians — namely Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney — is behind the woman’s story coming up again.

“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?” Fairfax asked reporters the day after the story resurfaced.

Stoney’s camp has denied he was involved.

“The Lt. Governor will take appropriate legal action against those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation,” a release from Fairfax’s office said.

UPDATE: Fairfax’s accuser, Vanessa Tyson, a fellow at Stanford University and associate professor at Scripps College, issued a statement Wednesday that included graphic details of the alleged assault. 

“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual,” Tyson said. “After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame.”

Fairfax issued his own statement Wednesday, again maintaining the encounter was consensual.

“I would like to encourage the media, my supporters and others to treat both the woman who made the allegation and my family with respect for how painful this situation can be for everyone involved,” Fairfax said. “I wish her no harm or humiliation, nor do I seek to denigrate her or diminish her voice, but I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach.