Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax (D) has denied that he sexually assaulted a woman at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
In a statement issued very late last night, Fairfax also claimed that The Washington Post previously investigated this matter a year ago and found significant inconsistencies in his accuser's story. But the Post disputed his characterization of their findings. "The Post did not find 'significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,' as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said," wrote Post columnist Theresa Vargas.
According to the Post, editors decided not to run with the story because they couldn't find anyone to corroborate it. The incident took place in Fairfax's hotel room: No one else witnessed whatever occurred, and the accuser did not confide in anyone. In her telling, the encounter began as consensual kissing, but Fairfax eventually forced her to give him oral sex against her will. In his telling, the encounter was consensual throughout, and the accuser later expressed a desire to have some kind of ongoing relationship.
"The same person called me sometime later and wanted to meet with me, wanted to come visit me… wanted to come to New York City to meet with me, wanted me to meet her mother," said Fairfax in a press conference on Monday, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. He also threatened "legal action" against "those attempting to spread" the rumors.
The accusation did not come to light until a friend of the accuser informed the conservative website Big League Politics about it. Big League Politics also broke the news last week that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had apparently appeared in a racist costume for his medical school yearbook in the mid 1980s. Northam initially apologized but has since denied that he was in the photo. Many have called for him to resign; if he did so, Fairfax would become governor.
Big League Politics obtained a Facebook post, allegedly written by Fairfax's accuser, in which she expresses anger at the idea that the man who sexually assaulted her is about to "get a big promotion." The alleged accuser did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it is not clear if she has consented to have her identity and her story made public at this time.
If she comes forward and provides more information about what happened, then the public will have to evaluate her credibility. In the meantime, there isn't nearly enough information to render any kind of judgment about whether the accusation is true. As I've written many times previously, it is neither appropriate to automatically believe or disbelieve accusations of sexual assault. We should accept that when trying to determine the truth of events that transpired years and years ago, we will often be frustrated by the sheer unknowability of it all.