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Amid Sexual Assault Allegations, Justin Fairfax Compares Himself to Lynching Victims

Facing pressure to resign after sexual assault allegations made by two different women, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax compared himself to the victims of “terror lynchings” in an unexpected speech on the state’s Senate floor Sunday.

Fairfax, who has repeatedly denied the accusations of sexual violence, gave his unexpected speech to the same legislative body that, weeks ago, unanimously passed a resolution “acknowledg[ing] with profound regret” Virginia’s “dark and shameful” history of accepting the 80-plus lynchings of primarily African-American men during the Jim Crow era.

“I have heard much about anti-lynching on the floor of this very Senate, where people are not given any due process whatsoever, and we rue that,” Fairfax said, according to the New York Times. “…And yet we stand here in a rush to judgment in nothing but accusations and no facts, and we are deciding we are willing to do the same thing.”

According to the Associated Press, “When he finished his five-minute impromptu speech, stunned senators sat in awkward silence.”

Although some lawmakers approved of Fairfax’s statement—Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Del. Lamont Bagby told the AP that his constituents have made similar comparisons, worrying that Fairfax is being unfairly targeted because he is black—others were troubled by the comparison.

Earlier this month, political science professor Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex when they were in Boston for the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Shortly after, Meredith Watson publicly accused Fairfax of assaulting her in college—and of currently trying to disempower Tyson and herself, who are both women of color.

“When I came forward to report that Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax raped me when we were both Duke University students in 2000, I did so to support another victim of sexual assault and to remove that man from a position of national prominence,” Watson wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, stating her hope to publicly testify against her alleged assailant.

Civil rights lawyer Debra Katz tweeted that Tyson, her client, also hoped to testify against Fairfax.

Prior to the weekend, House Republicans said that they would begin holding committee hearings about the assault allegations against Fairfax, a Democrat, this week.

Race relations have mired Virginia’s past and present. In the past month, the Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface in college. After Herring, Fairfax would be the next in line to be governor.