House Republicans invite Fairfax accusers to testify at hearing

RICHMOND, Va. — House Republicans announced on the floor Friday that they plan to invite the two women accusing Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault to testify before a committee.

Del. Rob Bell (R-District 58) said on the floor that the Court of Justice Committee will be scheduling a hearing and plan to invite Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson to testify. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax will also be invited to speak.

“This will give all parties the chance to be heard,” Del. Bell said. “To date, nothing has happened to this upfront.”

It didn’t take long for one of the accusers to respond and accept the invitation.

“Meredith Watson is gratified that the Virginia General Assembly has announced their intention to hold hearings, and she looks forward to testifying at this forum,” Watson’s attorney said in a statement.

“It is our understanding that the hearing will be public and televised and that Ms. Watson, Dr. Tyson and Lt. Governor Fairfax will all testify under oath and be subject to the same rules and requirements, including our right to present witnesses and corroborators.”

Lawyers for Dr. Tyson also released a statement Friday, stating their client had not received any invitation to testify and that she did not want to be involved in a political process.

“As she has made clear previously, Dr. Vanessa Tyson is prepared to testify at a public hearing regarding Lt. Governor Fairfax’s sexual assault of her in 2004. However, she has not yet received an invitation to do so from members of the Virginia Legislature. Dr. Tyson has also made it clear that she does not want to be embroiled in a highly charged political environment. It is the duty of the leaders on both sides of the aisle in Virginia to establish a bi-partisan path forward that provides for due process for everyone involved and facilitates a thorough examination of the allegations. If the Legislature truly believes that all sides deserve to be heard and taken seriously, its leaders will come together and determine an appropriate process.” — Lawyers for Dr. Vanessa Tyson

Lt. Governor Fairfax, meanwhile, called the developments ‘political theater’ on behalf of the Republicans. 

“This week, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly against the ERA. Now suddenly the same Republicans want to distract the public from their record of opposition to women’s rights by engaging in political theater. 

The Lt. Governor has consistently denied the unsubstantiated allegations against him and he has consistently requested a full, fair, independent, impartial, and non-political investigation by law enforcement. Obviously this House Republican led effort is partisan. 

The Lt. Governor was the first and remains the only party calling for a law enforcement investigation,” a spokesperson for the Lt. Gov. said in a statement. “House Republicans want to pursue this historically unprecedented course of action because the accused is a popularly elected Democrat.  

The path to finding truth and justice should be based on due process and the work of law enforcement professionals. The Lt. Governor is confident that the truth will exonerate him.” — Lauren Burke, spokesperson for Lt. Governor Fairfax

This comes a day Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox and Democratic Minority Leader Del. Eileen Filler-Corn spoke with the media to address the ongoing calls for an investigation from the General Assembly into the allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. 

“The victims have asked for this, they’ve consistently asked for this,” House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said on Thursday.

It’s unclear at this time when the hearing will take place, but Democrats are concerned that calls for hearings are being used for political games. 

“You don’t know what could be revealed in that process and you don’t know the impact that, that could have on a possible investigation,” Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) said. “This isn’t just about the individuals who have come forward at this time but anyone who would be coming forward on such serious allegations in the future.”

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