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The ghosts of truth

4/5/2019, 6 a.m.
The allegations of sexual assault lodged against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax seem to follow him like unwelcomed ghosts. ...

The allegations of sexual assault lodged against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax seem to follow him like unwelcomed ghosts. The latest appearance of these apparitions arose earlier this week in television interviews with Oprah’s bestie, Gayle King, that were broadcast over three days by CBS News.

In interviews shown on Sunday and Monday, Dr. Vanessa Tyson tearfully told Ms. King about her sexual encounter in 2004 with Lt. Gov. Fairfax that she said began with consensual kissing in a hotel room in Boston, where they were both attending the Democratic National Convention. He was a law student at Columbia University, and she, an incest survivor and current university professor in California, was working at a rape crisis center at the time. She told Ms. King that events took a turn when he forced her to perform oral sex. 

Then, in a separate interview that was broadcast on Tuesday, Ms. King talked with a tearful Meredith Watson of Maryland, who alleged that Lt. Gov. Fairfax raped her in 2000 when they were both undergraduate students at Duke University.

Since the allegations surfaced in February, Lt. Gov. Fairfax has denied forcing himself on or assaulting either woman, saying both encounters were consensual. He stated this week that he took and passed two polygraph exams he claimed proved the truth of his accounts of both events.

While we believe survivors of sexual assault and harassment should come forward without fear of retribution or being silenced, we admit we were a bit flummoxed by the interviews, which provided no new information beyond what Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson released through their lawyers and spokespersons in February. We are no closer to the truth or a resolution of these matters now than we were at the time they made their allegations public.

We continue our call for an impartial special investigation to be conducted into the matter, with Lt. Gov. Fairfax, Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson to be heard in an appropriate and nonpolitical forum.

We believe that Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson, like all women who bring forward allegations, deserve our respect and attention. While the public can review the facts, it is imperative that trained investigators get at the heart of each situation. 

We also believe that Lt. Gov. Fairfax, like all who are accused, is innocent until proven guilty. And because his reputation and the public trust are both at stake in this matter, it is essential that an investigation by professionals — devoid of the political circus — be conducted.

We hope Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson are not allowing themselves to be used by Virginia Republicans, who continue to use their allegations to churn chaos and division. The GOP has used the women’s interviews this week to claim that Democrats have rebuffed their efforts to hold a bipartisan hearing featuring the public testimony of Lt. Gov. Fairfax, Dr. Tyson and Ms. Watson. 

We believe a panel of Republican and Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates would simply be a political show, turning the matter into partisan fodder and achieving no good end for any of the people involved. We reject the notion that such a panel could bring any truth or light to this situation or to anyone involved.

What is required is a full, fair and impartial investigation of the allegations. And until that happens, the ghosts will continue to hover.