RICHMOND, Va. — Republicans in Richmond invited both of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s sexual assault accusers to testify in public, evoking echoes of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s appearance during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.
Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) announced the move Friday, amid considerable protests from Democrats and no specific hearing date set.
While both parties struggled for nearly three weeks to decide on an appropriate venue to investigate the allegations, concerns are widespread that public testimony in a political forum could devolve into a partisan battle.
“As it pertains to justice, what happens after the hearings?” said Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) on the floor of the House of Delegates.
“We can offer no conviction, we can offer no real action; and we would have taken all parties involved through a political exercise that in the end can actually cause more harm than good, and could have a chilling effect for others seeking justice.”
Fairfax maintains his innocence, and his spokeswoman reiterated calls for an independent investigation led by law enforcement.
Dr. Vanessa Tyson first accused Fairfax of sexual assault, alleging she was forced to perform oral sex while the two worked at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of rape, alleging a violent and premeditated attack while both were Duke University students in 2000.
“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,” her lawyer 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.”