Politics in the Old Dominion have been upended by claims of racism and sexual assault. Both the Governor and the Lt. Governor are facing calls to resign. There are few left who see a way forward for Virginia’s top leaders, and the state may be facing an unprecedented turnover of power.
The situation took a turn Wednesday when a woman came forward to accuse the lieutenant governor of Virginia of raping her. The incident reportedly took place during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, at a hotel in Boston.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Vanessa Tyson said in a statement released by her lawyers. “Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that 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. To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent.”
Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has acknowledged that he had a brief relationship with Tyson, but claims their encounter was consensual. “We hit it off, she was very interested in me, and so eventually, at one point, we ended up going to my hotel room,” he said.
Fairfax’s problems continue to worsen, but that’s far from the end for Virginians. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are both facing calls to resign after acknowledging they both wore blackface decades ago as part of ill-fated costumes.
If Northam had stepped down, Fairfax would have taken his place as Governor. Now, though, that seems unlikely. Herring would be the next in line. His future, though, remains in doubt.
While none of the men have resigned, pundits are openly saying that all three lack the ability to lead in the face of their respective allegations.
“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college,” Herring said in a statement, “some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song.”
“It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”
“This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct. That conduct clearly shows that, as a young man, I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.”
How will all of this end? That remains to be seen, as do who might be left in Virginia politics who could survive the scrutiny needed to make it into the Governor’s mansion. If these three men fall, the job would fall to Republican State Assembly Speaker Kirkland Cox.