Lawmakers react to Lt. Gov.’s polygraph tests and call for a hearing

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. — To prove his innocence after two allegations of sexual assault, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and his office released two lie detector tests to the media, but Republican leadership isn’t impressed.

The Virginia Democrat addressed the media on camera Wednesday for the first time since the General Assembly session wrapped up in February. These allegations initially came to light while Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring faced blackface scandals. 

Today, Fairfax read a prepared statement, refuting the details of incidents from over a decade ago with Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson. The two women shared their stories on CBS This Morning this week.

“I did not assault Vanessa Tyson. I did not assault Meredith Watson,” Lt. Gov. Fairfax told reporters. 

Lt. Governor Fairfax maintains the encounters with Tyson and Watson were consensual and is pushing for full law enforcement investigations in Boston, MA, and Durham, NC, where the women say the incidents happened. 

“When all of the facts and evidence are examined, by unbiased law enforcement professionals, I am confident that they will reach the same conclusion that was reached by one of the nation’s leading polygraph experts that I am telling the truth,” Lt. Gov. Fairfax said. 

In terms of the investigations, Fairfax says he is ready to testify under oath.

Members of the Republican leadership aren’t impressed with the polygraph tests, which are not allowed to be used in Virginia Courts.

“Ted Bundy passed a polygraph,” House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-District 15) said. “Who conducted it, what the questions were would all be fodder for a hearing. So, we would love to scrutinize how that test was conducted and if there was any credibility added to it or to be afforded it.”

Leader Gilbert addressed the media Wednesday on concerns surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface scandal and Fairfax. 

House Republicans are trying to drum up support for public hearings in which Fairfax and his accusers could testify before lawmakers, but Republican leadership says Democrats are holding up the process. 

“Those women want to be heard, they want to be heard in a public forum,” Leader Gilbert said. “They want the legislature to provide that forum.”

House Republicans and Democrats are at odds over how to proceed. Republican leadership wrote a letter to House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn about how a hearing could work, with members from both parties overseeing it. Tyson, Watson and Fairfax would be invited to speak, as well as other witnesses. 

Both women have said they would only agree if this process had support from both sides of the aisle, to avoid a political show. 

Leader Filler-Corn sent a letter in response detailing her concerns, including how a hearing could interfere with a criminal investigation. The letter also emphasized that a new standard would be created for these types of hearings since something like this has never happened before in the General Assembly. 

Both letters were released to the media and public Tuesday. 

In a one-on-one interview, Leader Filler-Corn said she would be interested in a third or independent party overseeing a hearing. 

“We would be open to that but not in a political setting, not here and also not by individuals, General Assembly members who have not been trained in trauma-informed investigation,” Leader Filler-Corn said. 

On a law enforcement investigation, Leader Gilbert says he doesn’t know if it would prevent the legislative body from conducting a hearing and “wouldn’t do anything to try to impede that.”

While Republicans maintain having both parties at the table for a hearing would prevent it from becoming a political show, Leader Filler-Corn says this process is already becoming one. 

At this time, it’s not clear how or if lawmakers will proceed with a hearing. Meanwhile, lawmakers had returned to Richmond Wednesday to make the final calls on the Governor’s changes to bills and vetoes. 

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