RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Former Lt. Gov. of Virginia, Justin Fairfax, has filed a $35 million defamation lawsuit against New York Public Radio.
The lawsuit comes just a few months after the FBI questioned Fairfax on sexual assault allegations made against the then-governor in 2019. The 43-year-old former lt. governor, who left public office in January, has consistently denied the assault allegations against him, which have not resulted in criminal charges, and has long called for law enforcement to investigate them.
The nature of the action of the suit states that “intentionally fabricated, false, and politically-motivated express and implied defamatory per se and per quod statements” were made with “actual malice” by both Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson. The suit goes on to say the two women are alleging “fictitious and intentionally fabricated sexual assaults” by Fairfax against them in 2000 and 2004, respectively.
Actual malice is the legal standard established by the Supreme Court for libel cases to determine when public officials or public figures may recover damages in lawsuits against the news media. To prove actual malice, Fairfax will need to prove the statement/s was made with the knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not.
The suit states that the statements were then published, endorsed, and presented as fact with “actual malice” by New York Public Radio and Melissa Harris-Perry, host of New York Public Radio’s news program, The Takeaway, on or around August 6, 2021, during a broadcast titled “Politics, Power, and Abuse.”
As a libel suit is required to be filed no more than one year after an alleged incident according to Virginia law, Fairfax submitted his defamation suit against New York Public Radio on Aug. 6, 2022.
In the broadcast, according to the suit, Perry conducted and published an interview with Tyson — who the suit claims to be Perry’s “former student, academic colleague and longtime close friend” — containing the defamatory per se and per quod statements.
During the same broadcast, the suit claims statements made by Watson alleging sexual assault — that had been originally aired more than two years previously in a 2019 interview on CBS This Morning — were played.
Fairfax’s Judgement Demands:
- awarding compensatory damages of not less than thirty-five million dollars ($35,000,000.00)
- awarding punitive damages
- awarding all expenses and costs, including attorneys’ fees
- an injunction prohibiting the Defendants from disseminating, distributing, or publishing any footage or statements that are judicially determined to be defamatory
- such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate