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HYATTSVILLE – As Virginia Lt. and former Hyattsville resident Gov. Justin Fairfax denies two accusations of sexual assault, the president of his former high school agrees with the calls for an investigation.
While the school cannot specifically comment about the case on Fairfax, DeMatha Catholic High School President Rev. James R. Day said that it is important to know all the facts of the cases before calling for his resignation. Fairfax graduated from DeMatha in 1996 and was held in high regard by the school’s faculty and staff, Day said.
“I believe that there will be an investigation in which I believe even Mr. Fairfax himself requested it,” Day said. “We need to let the investigation go forward and see before we render a decision.”
Fairfax is currently facing calls for his resignation following two accusations of sexual assault. The first came on Feb. 6 from Vanessa Tyson, who claims that Fairfax assaulted her after they first met in 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
According to Tyson’s account, Fairfax approached her and kissed her as she began to leave the room. The “consensual kissing” turned into assault as Fairfax put his hands on her neck and force Tyson to perform oral sex.
“To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent,” Tyson said. “Quite the opposite. I consciously avoided Mr. Fairfax for the remainder of the convention and I never spoke to him again.”
She attempted to have her story told by the Washington Post in Dec. 2017 after being motivated by the #MeToo movement. However, the newspaper decided to not report it in March 2018 due to the lack of evidence to back her claims.
A second woman, Meredith Watson, announced accusations of her own against Fairfax, dating back to 2000 when both were undergrad students at Duke University. According to Nancy Erika Smith, attorney for Watson, the two were friends but were never in a romantic relationship. The attack was premeditated and the details are “similar to those described” by Tyson, Smith said.
“At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character,” Smith said. “She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trama that has greatly affected her.”
Following Watson’s accusation, Fairfax released a statement saying he has nothing to hide, would not resign and asked for the FBI to investigate both claims.
“I have passed two full, field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before,” Fairfax said. “It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me. I will not resign.”
The accusations come as Gov. Ralph Northam is currently embroiled in his own scandal after a photo from a 1984 yearbook for Eastern Virginia Medical School, showed one person dressed in blackface and another in a KKK outfit, in which a political online website alleged that he was in the photo. After apologizing for the picture, Northam has since denied he is in the image.
During his time at DeMatha, Fairfax was voted as the senior class president, a member of the national honor’s society and participated in the mock trial. Aside from their differing opinions on reproductive rights, his academic success serves as an example of what a DeMatha education can do for young men, Day said.
“We can only comment about the man that we knew when he was here,” Day said. “He was hardworking and a very charismatic leader.”
According to Day, DeMatha’s theme of “producing faith-filled gentlemen and scholars” has been very instrumental in explaining to their current class of students of how to best address situations before and currently during the #MeToo movement. The school teaches the importance of “respect and understanding” to all people, including women.
“If one of our students were to say to me, ‘what am I learning about this?’ I would say to be careful when we are engaging in any situation,” Day said. “… Everyone needs to be respected, and we need to speak to each other honestly.”
There have been several calls from state politicians for Fairfax’s resignation. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine has called for Fairfax to leave the office while former Gov. Terry McAuliffe called the allegations “serious and credible.” The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said Fairfax staying on is “not in the best interest” for Virginia to move forward.
“In light of the most recent sexual assault allegations against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus believes it is best for Lt. Governor Fairfax to step down from his position,” the caucus said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our conviction that every allegation of sexual assault or misconduct is treated with the utmost seriousness.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan joined the fray, telling reporters on Feb. 6 that Northam should resign following his scandal but did not say anything concerning Fairfax.
“The governor of Virginia should resign,” Hogan said. “It’s completely unacceptable. I’m sure he’s lost the confidence of the people of Virginia.”
Hogan was scheduled to join Northam, and Delaware Gov. John Carney at a panel event on Feb. 11 at Salisbury University called “A Conversation with the Governors of Delmarva.” However, since the blackface/KKK photo surfaced, the event was “postponed/canceled,” according to the organizer’s website.