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Fairfax Speaks Out on the Allegations Against Him

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Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax presiding over the Virginia Senate. Craig Carper/WCVE

Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, has kept a low profile since two sexual assault accusations surfaced against him earlier this month. On Sunday, Fairfax gave an unexpected speech on the dais of the state senate. He said the allegations were causing a rush to judgement that he compared to the state’s history of lynchings.

Sunday was the final day of Virginia’s legislative session. Justin Fairfax was leading proceedings, as he has for the last seven weeks. 

While lawmakers were killing time, Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment stood up to directly address Fairfax. He said he understood the lieutenant governor was under a lot of stress.

"I am most appreciative of your even-handedness, your genteel manner and the professionalism that you've demonstrated throughout the session. And so I thank you, sir," said Norment. 

Fairfax said he hadn’t planned on addressing the allegations against him, but he went on to connect them to the state’s history of racial violence.

"If we go backwards and we rush to judgment and we allow for, political lynchings without any due process, any facts and the evidence being heard, that I think we do a disservice to this very body in which we all serve,” said Fairfax. 

The lieutenant governor suggested that had the accusations surfaced 50 years ago, he wouldn’t be on the dais.

"A very different outcome would've happened with no facts, no due process, no evidence, no nothing," said Fairfax. 

Senators responded with silence. But in the more combative lower chamber, House Republican Majority Leader Todd Gilbert called the remarks “the worst, most disgusting type of rhetoric.”

Republicans in the House announced Friday that they’re inviting Fairfax’s two accusers to a hearing.

Fairfax -- and most Democrats -- say the legislature is the wrong venue for an investigation. Democratic Delegate Lashrecse Aird says they’ll act quickly if Fairfax is convicted.

“Because the women -- the black women on this side of the aisle -- will be the first people to draft articles of impeachment,” said Aird. 

With Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring embroiled in blackface scandals, the party’s political problems in Virginia show no sign of going away anytime soon. 

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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