Justin Fairfax
Photo: Getty Images

Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s embattled Lieutenant Governor—though, let’s be real, ‘embattled’ applies to damn near half the state’s politicians at the moment—had some choice parting words for the state Senate as the 2019 legislative session drew to a close.

In a six minute speech on Sunday, Fairfax, who has been accused by two women of sexual assault, compared himself to victims of “terror lynchings” in the state, placing himself in some dubious company, to say the least.

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From The Washington Post:

“I’ve heard much about anti-lynching on the floor of this very Senate, where people were not given any due process whatsoever, and we rue that,” Fairfax said, referring to a measure approved this month by the General Assembly that expressed “profound regret” for the record of lynchings in the state. “And we talk about hundreds, at least 100 terror lynchings that have happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia under those very same auspices. And yet we stand here in a rush to judgment with nothing but accusations and no facts and we decide that we are willing to do the same thing.”

As the Post article notes, Fairfax’s comments effectively “[pitted] racial progress against the call of the #MeToo movement to ‘believe women,’” a construction all the more remarkable given that both Fairfax’s accusers are black women.

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The comments place Fairfax in the company of disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, convicted of sexual assault last year, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, accused of sexual harassment by a former employee, Anita Hill, and R. Kelly, recently arrested on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Each has attempted to refute allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by invoking the history of lynching in the U.S., particularly as it regarded black men, who were frequently falsely accused of sexual assaults on white women.

Lauren Burke, a spokeswoman for Fairfax, denied the lieutenant governor’s comments were “all that close” to Justice Thomas’ infamous “high-tech lynching” remarks during the Hill case.

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Burke told the Post Fairfax’s remarks were meant to draw attention to the importance of due process.

“If we go backwards and we rush to judgment, and we allow for political lynchings without any due process, any facts, any evidence being heard, then I think we do a disservice to this very body in which we all serve,” Fairfax said on the floor of the Virginia Senate.

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Fairfax, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the state, has been facing calls to resign in light of the accusations, but so far has been defiant. While his remarks drew condemnation from Republicans, as several outlets have noted, black and Democratic lawmakers have publicly supported Fairfax.

“He said what he needed to say,” said Sen. Mamie Locke (D.-Hampton), according to the Associated Press. Del. Lamont Bagby, chairman of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, also backed Fairfax up, telling the AP he’s heard constituents express concerns that Fairfax is being treated unfairly because he’s black.

Fairfax was accused by two women earlier this month of sexual assault and rape. Vanessa Tyson, an associate professor of politics at Scripps College, was the first woman to come forward, accusing Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex while in his hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Later that same week, Meredith Watson, who attended Duke University with Fairfax, said he raped her in 2000. She said she’s willing to testify against Fairfax, writing in an op-ed for the Post the Virginia Assembly had yet to organize “the thorough public hearing” she and Tyson have sought.

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Fairfax denies the allegations, maintaining that his encounters with Watson and Tyson were consensual.