Truth and resolution


9/20/2019, 6 a.m.
Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax wants his day in court.

Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax wants his day in court.

That’s all he has asked for since February, when two women publicly accused him of sexual assault in separate incidents alleged to have taken place in 2000 and 2004, one when he was a student at Duke University and the other when he was a law student at Columbia University.

Lt. Gov. Fairfax, who has denied forcing himself on or assaulting either woman, has said both sexual encounters were consensual. And he has sought to clear his name and reputation in the eight months since.

He has asked prosecutors in Durham, N.C., and Boston, where the alleged incidents took place, to open criminal investigations. He has called for the FBI to investigate and released the results of polygraph tests that he says show his denials are truthful.

Last week, he turned to the court system for relief, specifically federal district court in Alexandria, where he filed a $400 million defamation suit against CBS, which in April nationally broadcast separate interviews with the women conducted by Oprah Winfrey’s best friend, Gayle King, co-host of the network’s flagship morning program, “CBS This Morning.”

In the lawsuit, Lt. Gov. Fairfax contends that CBS showed reckless disregard for the truth by ignoring information that the women’s allegations had not been corroborated by any independent investigation when it aired the interviews.

The lawsuit also asserts that CBS sought to exploit the false allegations lodged against him to repair its public image and boost its bottom line.

The lawsuit asks for an injunction that would stop the network from “disseminating, distributing, or publishing any footage or statements that are judicially determined to be defamatory.”

We believe Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s civil suit is the best step at this time toward resolving this unfortunate and politically charged drama that has contributed toward tarnishing Virginia’s reputation nationally and has Republicans noxiously trying to capitalize on it to unseat Democrats in November’s pivotal General Assembly elections.

The 40-year-old Democrat deserves a chance to be heard on these serious allegations in a court of law and not a political kangaroo court before a highly partisan General Assembly committee as the women and some GOP lawmakers continue to suggest.

If the women are sincere in wanting their claims of sexual assault to be dealt with — and we remind our readers that neither has pursued criminal charges — then they should welcome Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s lawsuit that puts the matter in the hands of the judiciary.

We point out that such lawsuits typically sap major amounts of time and money from those who file them, as well as those who defend against them, a point that we are certain Lt. Gov. Fairfax, an attorney by profession, is well aware of. But what recourse does he have at this juncture? He has been left in an unfair limbo for the past eight months, with the haunting allegations keeping him from moving forward in his professional and political careers.

We are certain the entire situation has had a great impact on the women and their families in ways known and unknown, just as it has for Lt. Gov. Fairfax. In the aftermath of the shocking allegations, the lieutenant governor has left his law firm in Northern Virginia and his previously stellar career in public office has been clouded with questions about his character and veracity.

Because Lt. Gov. Fairfax holds the second highest office in the Commonwealth, the public trust also is at stake in this matter. We believe the entire episode needs to be cleared up, and soon. Eight months in and we, the people of Virginia, are no closer to the truth or a resolution of these matters than we were at the time the women first made their allegations public.

This is unfair not only to Lt. Gov. Fairfax and to the women, but to the people of the Commonwealth. We hope the civil suit will bring both truth and resolution.