More blackface revelations, sexual assault details rock Richmond

Vanessa Tyson (left) and Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. (Photos courtesy of Scripps College & The Associated Press_
Vanessa Tyson (left) and Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. (Photos courtesy of Scripps College & The Associated Press)

Double whammy on the Richmond scandal carnival Wednesday.

Virginia’s Democratic Attorney General, Mark Herring, admitted he dress up in blackface in college to sing a rap song with his buddies and the woman who says Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her went public in graphic detail about a blow job that she says he forced her to give him in 2004.

With Virginia’s top three Democratic office holders in trouble, the next in line for governor is the top Republican in the general assembly.

Unlike the instant demands that Gov. Ralph Northam resign from office after revelations of his blackface incident in Medical School hit last week, the response on the latest scandals have drawn a more measured “let’s wait and see” response.

Herring says he dressed up as rapper Kurtis Blow at a party at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1980.  He was 19.

That’s five years younger than Northam’s admitted appearance as Michael Jackson, complete with blackface, the glove and a “moonwalk” at age 24 in 1984 at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Fairfax, it turns out, was also 24 and at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 when he took Vanessa Tyson to his hotel room.

“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson said Wednesday in a public statement. Fairfax admits the encounter with Tyson but claims all that happened as “a consensual sexual act” by a single man with a woman.

In her statement, Tyson continues:

Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis. He then forced his penis into my mouth. Utterly shocked and terrified, I tried to move my head away, but could not because his hand was holding down my neck and he was much stronger than me. As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him.

“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual attack was consensual,” she says in a statement.

She said nothing at the time but came forward when she saw a news photo of Fairfax as Virginia’s new Lt. Governor in 2017.

The image hit me like a ton of bricks, triggering buried traumatic memories and the feelings of humiliation I’d felt so intensely back in 2004. Prior to reading the article, I had not followed Mr. Fairfax’s career and did not know that he was seeking public office.

She told a friend at The Washington Post but the paper said he could not confirm what happened and found no evidence of such behavior by Fairfax.

After The Washington Post decided in March 2018 not to run my story, I felt powerless, frustrated, and completely drained. Again I tried to bury memories of this painful incident and focus on my work and my students.

The story emerged, however, on the same GOP-oriented web site that uncovered the blackface photo that started the uproar over Ralph Northern and she is telling her story again.

Fairfax, an attorney, released his own statement Wednesday saying again it was consensual but also asked people to “treat the accuser with respect.”

On Monday, however, he threatened legal action against Tyson, who is a fellow at Stanford University and associated professor at Scripps College.  Fairfax said her story is “false.”

By Wednesday, and with the advice of aides and friends, Fairfax issued a new statement:

I would like to encourage the media, my supporters and others to treat both the woman who made the allegation and my family with respect for how painful this situation can be for everyone involved. I wish her no harm or humiliation, nor do I seek to denigrate her or diminish her voice. But I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true.

This has been an emotional couple of days for me and my family. And in my remarks on Monday, I think you could hear how emotional dealing with an allegation that I know is not true has been for me.

The stories about both Northam and Fairfax came from a website owned and run by a former political advisor to Corey Stewart, the nationalist who ran against Tim Kaine in last year’s Virginia Senate election.  Kaine easily won-re-election.

The website operator also previously worked for right-wing news sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart News.

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