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Lt. Gov. Fairfax compares ‘rush to judgment’ against him to Jim Crow-era lynching

Free Press staff, wire reports | 3/1/2019, 6 a.m.
With his political career in tatters, embattled Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax took a stand against his critics in ...
Protesters from around the state converge Saturday on the Capitol continuing their call for the resignation of Gov. Ralph S. Northam. One sign also called for Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax’s impeachment. Photo by Regina H. Boone Richmond Free Press

Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax’s impromptu impassioned speech Sunday to the state Senate was met by silence. Moments before, he had been applauded by the 40 senators for his professionalism during the General Assembly session while dealing with piercing allegations.

Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax’s impromptu impassioned speech Sunday to the state Senate was met by silence. Moments before, he had been applauded by the 40 senators for his professionalism during the General Assembly session while dealing with piercing allegations.

With his political career in tatters, embattled Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax took a stand against his critics in the final moments of the 2019 General Assembly session.

He likened himself to Jim Crow-era lynching victims as he decried the “rush to judgment” he has faced since two women went public with allegations that he sexually assaulted them long before his election to statewide office.

Lt. Gov. Fairfax, who has stoutly resisted calls to resign and has repeatedly asserted that he never assaulted the women or anyone else, vented his frustration Sunday that he is assumed to be guilty before any attempt is made to back up the allegations with evidence.

Speaking impromptu from the rostrum of the state Senate where he serves as presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Fairfax renewed his plea for a full investigation of the charges rather than allowing “political lynchings without any due process or any evidence being given.”

He said it’s as if Virginia has turned back the clock to the era of segregation when that was the way things were done.

“I’ve heard much about anti-lynching on the floor of this very Senate, where people were not given any due process whatsoever, and we rue that,” referencing legislation that both the Senate and the House of Delegates passed expressing “profound regret” for lynchings in Virginia between 1877 and 1950.

“And we talk about hundreds, at least 100 terror lynchings that have happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia” in which people were killed based solely on often false accusations, he said. For the accused, there was no trial and no need for proof.

Yet despite the apology for lynchings, “we stand here in a rush to judgment with nothing but accusations and no facts and we decide that we are willing to do the same thing,” Lt. Gov. Fairfax said.

He was largely addressing the announcement from the Republican chairman of a House of Delegates Committee that his committee would provide a platform at some point in the future for the two accusers to repeat their allegations.

Neither of the women have filed criminal charges.

After Lt. Gov. Fairfax finished his surprise remarks, the 40 senators responded with complete silence.

The lieutenant governor spoke after Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, R-James City County, praised Lt. Gov. Fairfax “for his professionalism” and his “even-handed approach” in presiding over the Senate despite his situation, which drew standing applause from the Senate for Lt. Gov. Fairfax.

The allegations involving Lt. Gov. Fairfax, only the second African-American to hold statewide office, have come to overshadow the uproar involving his two 2016 running mates, Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring, for wearing blackface decades ago to impersonate African-American entertainers.

Gov. Northam and Mr. Herring also have rejected calls for their resignation.

Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s career took a nosedive Feb. 3 when a California university professor, Dr. Vanessa Tyson went public with an allegation that Mr. Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in his hotel room during the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.