Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D.) would not say Monday whether he believes his state's embattled governor, Ralph Northam (D.), is spreading misinformation about an allegation of sexual assault against him.
"Collective PAC, they said that you believe that the governor's team is spreading misinformation about your team. Can you comment on that please, sir?" a reporter asked Fairfax, referring to a political action committee that seeks to increase the number of African Americans in public office.
"Collective PAC made its statement," Fairfax began to respond.
"Do you believe it?" the reporter interjected.
"I don't know precisely where this is coming from," Fairfax responded. "We've heard different things, but here's the thing: Does anybody think it's any coincidence that on the eve of my being potentially elevated, that's when this uncorroborated smear comes out? Does anybody believe that's a coincidence? I don't think anybody believes that's a coincidence."
"Particularly with something—this is not the first time this was brought up," Fairfax continued. "It was a year ago this was brought up, and yet the [Washington] Post, who investigated it for three months, dropped the story, did not do it, and they did not do it because it was uncorroborated. It was uncorroborated because it's not true."
The reporter's question about Northam comes as the governor continues to resist calls for his resignation after an image emerged from his medical school yearbook featuring an individual in a Ku Klux Klan hood and a man in blackface.
Collective PAC on Monday alleged in a statement that Northam's team "have now decided to start attacking Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax by spreading lies to reporters and state leaders in an attempt to quell support for the Lt. Governor as Governor Northam's impending successor should he resign."
In a statement issued Monday, Fairfax claimed that the Washington Post chose not to publish a previous story on the allegation of sexual assault because of a lack of corroborating evidence and "significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegation."
— Justin Fairfax (@FairfaxJustin) February 4, 2019
The Post addressed Fairfax's statement in an article published Monday afternoon. The alleged victim said she and Fairfax met in Boston in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention. She approached the newspaper after Fairfax won election in November 2017 and before he was inaugurated in January 2018, according to the Post.
Fairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present. The Washington Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version. The Post did not find "significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations," as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said.
Fairfax (D), who was not married at the time, has denied her account through his attorneys and described the encounter as consensual.
The woman described a sexual encounter that began with consensual kissing and ended with a forced act that left her crying and shaken. She said Fairfax guided her to the bed, where they continued kissing, and then at one point she realized she could not move her neck. She said Fairfax used his strength to force her to perform oral sex.
The Washington Post, in phone calls to people who knew Fairfax from college, law school, and through political circles, found no similar complaints of sexual misconduct against him. Without that, or the ability to corroborate the woman's account—in part because she had not told anyone what happened—The Washington Post did not run a story.
In response to the Post‘s story, Fairfax's team released a statement saying the newspaper "just smeared an elected official."
"This is what we meant when we said that people who continue to spread these false allegations will be sued," the statement continued.
The Post updated its piece with a quote from the paper's executive editor, Marty Baron, who said the publication "had an obligation to clarify the nature of both the allegations and our reporting" after Fairfax had made "specific representations about Post reporting that had not resulted in publication."