Vanessa Tyson, a professor of politics at Scripps College in California, detailed her disturbing allegation of sexual assault against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax in a lengthy statement released by her attorneys on Wednesday.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson said of the incident, which she said occurred at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. “As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him. I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual.”
“To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent,” she said.
Tyson said that she “suffered from both deep humiliation and shame” after the incident, and that “traumatic memories” of it resurfaced when she learned that Fairfax was running for lieutenant governor in the fall of 2017.
Contradicting Fairfax’s claim that Tyson called him weeks later and asked him to meet her mother, Tyson said that she never spoke to Fairfax again after the incident.
Fairfax, 39, has repeatedly denied Tyson’s claim and while he acknowledged that the two had a sexual encounter in 2004, holds that it was “100% consensual.” He called the claim a “smear” and has threatened to sue Tyson and others “who continue to spread these false allegations.”
“Does anybody think it’s any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that’s when this smear comes out?” he told reporters in the state Capitol rotunda.
Tyson approached The Washington Post with her claims in early 2018, around the time of Fairfax’s inauguration, but the paper wasn’t able to find corroborating evidence and did not move forward with the story.
Fairfax’s team alleged that the Post found “significant red flags and inconsistencies within [Tyson’s] allegations,” but the Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, refuted Fairfax’s claim and said the paper simply didn’t have enough evidence to publish Tyson’s allegations.
In her Wednesday statement, Tyson called Fairfax’s claim about the Post’s findings “deceitful, offensive, and profoundly upsetting” and called his attacks on her a “smear campaign.”
Also on Wednesday, multiple news outlets reported that during a private Monday night meeting Fairfax said of Tyson, “F–k that b—-h.” Fairfax’s aides later said that Fairfax did use the “F” word, but did use “any heated language directed torward Vanessa Tyson.”
Tyson also argued that she has no political motivations to come forward as she is also “a proud Democrat.”
“My only motive in speaking now is to refute Mr. Fairfax’s falsehoods ad aspersions of my character, and to provide what I believe is important information for Virginians to have as they made critical decisions that involve Mr. Fairfax,” she said.
Tyson’s statement is the latest development in an increasingly dire political crisis in Virginia, where both Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are facing pressure to resign after they both admitted to dressing in blackface years ago.
The Virginia Democratic Party said on Tuesday afternoon that it is evaluating Tyson’s allegation.
“All allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity. We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax,” the Party said in a statement to New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel.
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