House Democrats Silent on Fairfax Sexual Assault Allegation

February 8, 2019

House Democrats were silent this week when confronted about an allegation Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D.) sexually assaulted a woman in 2004. America Rising, a conservative group, captured video of Democratic lawmakers while in the halls of Congress, responding to questions about the allegations against Fairfax.

The video shows eight Democratic lawmakers — Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ted Deutsch (Fla.), Jamie Raskin (Md.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Lucy McBath (Ga.), Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) and Cedric Richmond (La.) — being asked if they believe the accuser, Vanessa Tyson.

Tyson, an associate professor of politics at Scripps College in Claremont, California, came forward publicly on Wednesday as the woman accusing Fairfax of sexually assaulting her while they were both in Boston for the the Democratic National Convention. Fairfax has denied the allegation since it was first reported Sunday evening, saying he and the woman were intimate in a consensual way during the convention. Fairfax released a second statement on Wednesday in which he continued to deny the allegation but also stated that women don't make such allegations "lightly." The statement came before NBC reported Fairfax said "fuck that bitch" when talking about Tyson in a private meeting. Fairfax's chief of staff has denied his boss used that language in reference to Tyson.

Most of the lawmakers didn't respond when American Rising asked whether they believed Tyson.

"I haven't looked into that yet," Jayapal responded.

At first, Ocasio-Cortez responded that she was trying to figure out where she was going. She later said she "looked forward to looking into the scenario" but hadn't heard enough about it yet.

Deutsch ignored the question and walked away.

Raskin appeared to be annoyed at the question and avoided answering it by scolding the questioner for not introducing himself. "It's not polite," the Maryland Democrat said.

Lieu slowed walking when asked about the issue, and he appeared to think for a moment before responding, "I don't know enough about it."

McBath didn't respond.

Jefferies ignored the question before walking away with his phone to his ear.

Richmond ignored the question.

While most Democratic lawmakers remain silent, Democrats running for president have not. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said she supports Tyson, and she called for an investigation into the allegation. Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) also called for an investigation, saying the allegation has "credibility."

The allegation against Fairfax is one of the three scandals that have embroiled the top elected leaders in Virginia. Revelations that Gov. Ralph Northam (D.) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D.) wore blackface while students in the 1980s have also caused controversy across the state.