News from the Virginia Democratic Party is that they’re “evaluating” Justin Fairfax and the allegation of sexual assault. I’ll bet they are, just the same way they’re “evaluating” how the Virginia Democratic Party went from resurgent to ridiculous over the space of five days. Now that Scripps professor Vanessa Tyson has gone public with her allegation of sexual assault against the lieutenant governor, the party has no choice but to start “evaluating” the claim and Fairfax’s shelf life in the #MeToo era.
Or maybe it’s the legal representation and echoes of a Democratic witch hunt last fall that has Virginia Democrats “evaluating”:
The Virginia Democratic Party said it’s “evaluating” an allegation of sexual assault made against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. …
“All allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity. We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax,” the Party said in a statement to New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel.
This morning, NBC News gave them something else to evaluate too:
NBC News has learned that Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax used profane language in a private meeting Monday night, while referring to his accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
Two sources tells us Fairfax said of Tyson: “Fuck that bitch.”
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) February 6, 2019
Yikes. That won’t go over well with the #MeToo crowd, especially once Tyson and her lawyers come out with the whole story from her perspective:
On Tuesday, Tyson hired lawyers at the law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks — the same team that represented Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, NPR reported. Fairfax has threatened to sue “people who continue to spread these false allegations.”
Both moves yesterday immediately raised the credibility of the allegation — which isn’t saying a whole lot, however. Before Tyson went public, the only information anyone had was a secondhand telling of an ambiguous story. As long as it stayed in that status, Fairfax could bluster about suing everyone who even breathed about the claim. Now that Tyson has come forward with her own legal team, we have — or shortly will have — a firsthand account from the alleged victim that we can test.
On that score, Fairfax and his party took another hit today. Apparently Tyson had told this story well before the current eruption, at least among friends and sexual-assault activists:
Tyson’s Stanford colleague Jennifer Freyd told the Bay Area News Group on Tuesday that sometime last fall, at the start of their fellowship program, Tyson told Freyd and a couple of other colleagues about the 2004 encounter at the Boston convention. Freyd doesn’t remember whether Tyson named Fairfax, but said that she spoke about it while “illustrating a concept” they were discussing about sexual violence.
“It was not that remarkable in that many times I’ve sat with colleagues and they talked about being victimized and how it fits in with what we are talking about,” said Freyd, a University of Oregon psychology professor who is part of the same Stanford behavioral sciences fellowship program with Tyson. …
Although Tyson has not personally gone public with her account, she told Freyd in an email Monday that it was OK for this publication to identify her because “her name is public now” after she was identified in a conservative blog on Sunday.
“She’s super smart and thoughtful. I’ve experienced her as a person of enormous integrity, courage and authenticity,” Freyd said. Both are scheduled to be part of a Stanford symposium on Feb. 12 called “Betrayal and Courage in the Age of #MeToo.”
It’s still secondhand, but we’re getting closer to a firsthand allegation in public. The risks for that are what VA Dems are “evaluating” at the moment. As Philip Klein pointed out yesterday, the risks originate from how Democrats went after Brett Kavanaugh last fall, and Al Franken two years ago:
Though the Post says that the woman had not told anybody of the event before contacting the publication, there are ways in which her accusation is more credible than the one from Ford, who was the most credible of Kavanaugh’s accusers. For instance, the accuser is able to identify the time and place when she says the assault happened, Fairfax acknowledges that a sexual encounter took place (even while saying it was fully consensual), and the gap between the time of the said assault by Fairfax and her first mentioning it was shorter at just over 13 years.
In the case of Ford, the Post relied on excerpts of therapist notes provided by Ford’s lawyers indicating she mentioned the assault in a 2012 session — notes that didn’t mention Kavanaugh by name, had some different details, and came 30 years after the supposed encounter. Ford was only sure that the encounter with Kavanuagh happened at some point in a summer during her high school years, at various points describing it as somewhere from the early to mid-’80s, before homing in on the summer of 1982. And nobody Ford mentioned as being at the party when the alleged assault took place could even corroborate the party.
Whether the Washington Post applied a double standard, however, doesn’t mean that Democrats have to as well. It’s possible that they may decide, with a Democratic attorney general waiting in the wings to take over, they can sacrifice Fairfax and signal that they aren’t hypocrites when it comes to policing their own.
But it should be interesting to watch how this plays out. If the accuser comes public by name, will Democrats automatically believe her and call on Fairfax to resign, in keeping with the “believe all accusers” standard? Or will they await more corroborating evidence? By doing so in this case, they would thus establish that there is some threshold of likelihood that an accusation against a public figure must meet.
That’s one risk. Another is Tyson herself, who is seen in this brief video sent around by Fairfax’s team last night. In this 2007 video, via Twitchy, Tyson briefly discuses her status as an incest survivor to talk about how victims need to band together. Fairfax claims the video undermines her allegation against him because she never mentions the 2004 assault a 30-second conversation. And that proves … what, precisely?
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax says this 2007 YouTube video of accuser Vanessa Tyson shows “inconsistencies” in her story. He says it was recorded a few years after she alleges he assaulted her, yet she doesn’t mention him when describing past assaults:https://t.co/1eMQRdKTb3
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) February 6, 2019
The fact that Tyson chose to discuss one assault — one that was fully adjudicated — does not exclude the possibilities of other assaults. To call this a desperate attempt to undermine a potential victim is an understatement, Phil Kerpen observes:
The only thing this video shows is that Dr. Tyson is an incest survivor and the only reason Fairfax would send it around to the press is to smear and discredit her as damaged goods. This is a really bad look for Fairfax. https://t.co/c9iBz54jgv
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) February 6, 2019
I’m so old I can remember when Democrats would have called this “victim shaming.” Virginia Democrats have a lot to evaluate here, including just how long they’re willing to stick with Fairfax and his desperate tactics to shift attention away from himself. That in itself seems suspicious — and a big potential risk for Virginia Democrats. Just ask Levar Stoney.
Update: Not so, says Fairfax’s chief of staff:
Justin Fairfax’s chief of staff denies that Fairfax said “fuck that bitch” in regards to Vanessa Tyson at a private Monday night meeting, as reported by @NBCPolitics.
“Absolutely not true. I was there.”
— Fenit Nirappil (@FenitN) February 6, 2019
NBC says they have two sources for this comment, and Fairfax’s COS has a vested interest in denying the story. It’s not an incomprehensible reaction, especially if the allegation is false, but … it’s not a good look for Fairfax if it’s true.
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