Dr. Vanessa Tyson, the woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, broke her silence on Wednesday. Tyson released a statement which describes in detail what she alleges happened between her and Fairfax nearly 15 years ago.
In her statement, published by her legal firm Katz, Marshall, and Banks (the same firm which represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after she alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh), Tyson claims that she and Fairfax met in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention. Realizing they had a mutual friend, Tyson said the pair struck up a “cordial, not flirtatious” relationship over the coming days, that culminated in a kiss in Fairfax’s hotel room, where Tyson had accompanied Fairfax to retrieve some documents.
“Although surprised by his his advance, it was not unwelcome, and I kissed him back,” she wrote, adding that she was fully clothed and had no intention at the time of getting undressed.
But, she continued, “what began as kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault.”
From her statement, which contains a graphic description of the alleged assault:
Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis. He then forced his penis into my mouth. Utterly shocked and terrified, I tried to move my head away, but could not because his hand was holding down my neck and he was much stronger than me. 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.
Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegation, going so far as to insinuate during a press conference on Monday that the reason Tyson’s story was being raised now was to discredit him in the midst of VA Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal. Should Northam resign, Fairfax would be next in line to assume the governorship.
In her statement, Tyson pushed back against Fairfax’s suggestion, citing the #MeToo movement as one motivating factor in her coming forward, and saying that “I have no political motive. I am a proud Democrat.”
Fairfax released his own statement on Wednesday, describing his encounter with Tyson—whom he does not name—as “consensual” and claiming that the first time he’d heard of her allegations, it was in 2018 when he’d been contacted by “a national media organization.”
Fairfax had earlier used the fact that the Washington Post had decided not to cover the allegation when they were first approached with the story as proof of his innocence, claiming that the newspaper had passed on the story based on “the absence of any evidence corroborating the allegation, and significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegation.”
The Post later disputed Fairfax’s denial, writing that “The Post did not find ‘significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,’ as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said.” Afterwards, Fairfax accused the Post of “smearing” him.
Tyson, meanwhile, writes in her statement that this will be her only public remarks on the allegation, and that she “very much [wishes] to resume my life as an academic and professor.”
Should both Northam and Fairfax step down from office over their respective allegations, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring would be next in line to become governor. On Wednesday, Herring issued a statement of his own in which he admitted to having worn blackface at a college party in 1980. After Herring in the line of succession is Del. Kirk Cox, the Republican Speaker of Virginia House of Delegates.
Update, 6:04 p.m. ET: Fairfax has responded to Tyson’s allegations with a statement made to The Root’s Jason Johnson:
Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests.
As I said in my statement this morning, I have nothing to hide.
Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth. I take this situation very seriously and continue to believe Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect. But, I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.
I support the aims of the MeToo movement and I believe that people should always be heard and the truth should be sought. I wish Dr. Tyson the best as I do our Commonwealth.