Justin Fairfax, Virginia's Democratic lieutenant governor, on Thursday filed a $400 million defamation lawsuit against CBS Corporation and CBS Broadcasting Inc. over interviews with women who accused Fairfax of sexual assault.
The lawsuit was brought in the U.S. District Court in Virginia's Eastern District, according to documents tweeted by reporter Mike Valerio of WUSA, the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. The suit accuses CBS of broadcasting false statements to harm Fairfax, who was second in line to be Virginia's governor at a time when Gov. Ralph Northam (D.) was embroiled in a racism scandal.
"Fairfax brings this action to restore his reputation and clear his name, ensure the truth prevails, stop the weaponization of false allegations of sexual assault against him, and vindicate his rights under civil law," the lawsuit states.
Valerio pointed out that the suit claims "interviews with the two women who accused him of sexual assault are alleged to be exceedingly defamatory to his reputation."
Here’s the complaint against CBS News, where Virginia Lieutenant Governor @LGJustinFairfax seeks $400 MILLION in damages…
— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) September 12, 2019
In February, college professor Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of forcing her to give him oral sex in 2004, and Meredith Watson alleged that Fairfax raped her in 2000 while they were both undergraduates at Duke University. Fairfax said both encounters were consensual, publishing a statement saying he supports women's rights but "stand[s] accused of crimes that I did not commit."
Many Democrats in Virginia and around the country called for Fairfax's resignation, but he refused. The Virginia Democratic Party had done the same for Northam, who had a page in his law school yearbook showing two people in racist costumes—one in blackface, one in a Ku Klux Klan robe.
However, the second man in line for the governorship, state attorney general Mark R. Herring (D), himself admitted to wearing blackface, thus making the Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox eligible to become governor if all three Democrats were to resign. The Democratic Party then eased off pressuring them to step down, and all three have remained in office.
In April Republicans accused Democrats of stonewalling a public hearing about Fairfax, which is something Republicans called for along with the accusers.
Fairfax has lashed out at Democrats who demanded his resignation. Last month he accused Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.) of racism for wanting him to resign while giving President Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt on whether he's a racist.
"CAN'T say there's enough evidence to call Trump racist," Fairfax said. "CAN call for the resignation of the Black LG based on 2 press releases with no investigation, evidence, or #dueprocess."
Five of Virginia's seven Democratic House members issued a joint statement condemning Fairfax in February.