Gillibrand Calls Fairfax Accuser’s Story ‘Deeply Disturbing and Credible,’ Doesn’t Call on Fairfax to Resign

(Updated)

Kirsten Gillibrand / YouTube

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) called Vanessa Tyson's accusation of sexual assault against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D.) "deeply disturbing and credible" in a new interview, but she stopped short of calling for his immediate resignation.

Tyson, a Democrat herself, has released a statement accusing Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him in a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Fairfax called the accusation a "smear" and said they engaged in consensual sexual activity.

Gillibrand, a 2020 presidential candidate, is a top voice in the Democratic Party in the #MeToo era, and she has received both criticism and praise from liberals for leading the efforts to force out former Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) in 2017 following multiple accusations of misconduct. Interviewer Jon Lovett, one of the hosts of the liberal podcast "Pod Save America," described the graphic statement given by Tyson and asked Gillibrand whether Fairfax should resign.

Gillibrand first praised Tyson's "enormous courage" and said it was clear the statement reliving the moment caused her "grave trauma."

"It has to be investigated. You have to take these allegations seriously, so they can be investigated, and that's why we want to talk about believing survivors," she said.

Gillibrand said the issue with sexual assault in the United States was that unless accusers were believed, there would be no investigation at all.

"There's so much institutional bias against a survivor in favor of the powerful, every single time, so I think there has to be a full investigation. I thought her story was deeply disturbing and credible, so there must be an investigation," she said.

Gillibrand posted a pair of tweets Thursday afternoon saying she supported Tyson and reiterating the need to "support survivors." She made no mention of Fairfax.

Gillibrand also was a leading voice against the confirmation of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, particularly after he was accused of sexual assault as a teenager by Christine Blasey Ford. Gillibrand called on him to withdraw his nomination and said she believed Ford "because she's telling the truth."

Like Tyson's accusation, Ford's story was uncorroborated, although the latter told her husband and therapist about the alleged attack decades later.

Update 2:14 p.m.: This article was updated with Gillibrand's tweets from Thursday afternoon.

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