McCaskill: To Have Credibility, Dems Must Investigate Sexual Assault Allegation Against Fairfax

An MNSBC panel Wednesday insisted Democrats take seriously sexual assault accusations within the party, lest they be branded hypocrites.

The "Morning Joe" panel worried about the Democratic Party's newfound reticence when it comes to supporting women who allege sexual misconduct. Former Sen. Claire McCaskill, an MSNBC contributor, put it bluntly: "If we're going to be taken seriously as a party on this issue, then it can't be about who they're accusing. It has to be about the substance of the accusation."

The comments follow revelations that a woman has long accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D.) of sexual assault. Fairfax, who strongly denies the allegation, is poised to become the governor, should embattled Gov. Ralph Northam (D., Va.) resign.

In a story late Sunday night, Big League Politics reported an allegation that Fairfax, then a John Kerry staffer, assaulted a woman at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Fairfax immediately issued a strong denial that he ever committed sexual assault. On Monday, after the Washington Post released additional details of the accusation, Fairfax confirmed he had a sexual encounter with the woman but said it was consensual.

The Post did not report the accusation last year after the woman initially approached the paper, saying Monday that she and Fairfax told different stories about what happened in the hotel room and neither version could be corroborated.

The panel discussed how the party has been quiet on the accusations against Fairfax, which contrasts their reaction to accusations of misconduct against Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings. Last September, Democrats pressed the importance of claims of sexual misconduct in an effort to disqualify Kavanaugh from assuming a seat on the Supreme Court. At the time, Democrats trumpeted that they "believe survivors." Kavanaugh vehemently denied the accusations, included one from Christine Blasey Ford.

McCaskill noted Ford was "very credible," despite a lack of collaboration from others she said could have been witnesses to the alleged assault, inconsistencies in her story, and her inability to recall key details about the incident in question.

If Kavanaugh's accuser was credible with a limited recollection, McCaskill reasoned, surely Fairfax's accuser deserved the same. "In this case, you have a very credible woman, just like Dr. Ford," McCaskill continued. Unlike Ford, however, Fairfax's accuser "knew the time, place, and other key details about the alleged encounter."

The comprehensive rigor of those details "makes it an even greater challenge for Democrats to just turn their heads away because this is inconvenient," she said. "It is hard, but we have to have credibility."

Democrats have avoided calling for Fairfax to resign, and instead, taken a number of other routes in response to the allegations. During an earlier appearance on the show, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez insisted that Fairfax deserved "due process." Some Democrats claimed not to have heard of the sexual assault allegations. Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) said "we should be focusing [instead] on the governor's iniquities."

Joe Scarborough marveled at Booker's flippant reply to a question about a government official's serious wrongdoing. "Especially for a senator who declared ‘I am Spartacus,' yesterday was most definitely not a Spartacus moment," he said.

In September, Booker deemed his opposition to Kavanaugh his "Spartacus moment." He threatened to break Senate rules to block the nomination because of the allegations against the nominee. Since launching his presidential campaign, Booker has defended his earlier conduct.