Update On Sexual Assault Allegations Against Virginia's Lieutenant Governor
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There are growing calls this weekend for Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of Virginia to resign after a second woman came forward late yesterday to accuse him of sexual assault. Fairfax denies the allegations of both of his accusers. That puts Virginia's three top elected officials, all Democrats, steeped in scandal and suspicion. We're going to go now to Mallory Noe Payne of member station WVTF in Richmond right now. Mallory, thanks so much for being with us.
MALLORY NOE PAYNE, BYLINE: Good morning.
SIMON: Tell us please about the second allegation that came in late yesterday, a second woman who says that Lieutenant Governor Fairfax sexually assaulted her.
NOE PAYNE: Yeah. So the description we have of this allegation comes from a statement sent out by the woman's lawyers. Her name is Meredith Watson. She says the incident occurred in 2000. They were both students at Duke University at the time. And she says that Fairfax raped her, that the attack was, quote, "premeditated and aggressive." And Fairfax has denied that allegation.
SIMON: And, of course, the first sexual assault allegation against Fairfax was made a couple of days ago and this from Vanessa Tyson, who is a college professor and a visiting fellow at Stanford. There were not immediately calls for his resignation then.
NOE PAYNE: Yeah. So that allegation came out. Fairfax did, once again, immediately step forward and vehemently denied the allegation. And Fairfax serves as - he presides over the state Senate. And that - they've been working all week long. So he's been at the state capital day to day doing his job presiding over the Senate throughout the midst of this.
SIMON: Now, a week ago - let's get back to the governor. Ralph Northam gave a press conference, said he dressed in blackface as Michael Jackson decades ago. Late yesterday, though, he said that he had no intention of stepping down despite a growing chorus of voices in his own party, Virginia Democrats and national Democrats. What's the latest on that?
NOE PAYNE: So Northam told top staff yesterday that he has no plans to resign. He even sent out an email to all state employees. That email - he said, quote, "you have placed your trust in me to lead Virginia forward. And I plan to do that." Ever since last Saturday's press conference, he's avoided public appearance, largely stayed off social media. And until yesterday, he did meet with the head of the Black Farmers Association, a man named John Boyd. I spoke with Boyd after that meeting. He says that Northam apologized and that he accepted that apology.
And so I think maybe that gives us some sense of the type of activity that we'll see moving forward, Northam sort of shifting to meeting with people, doing, like, a listening tour, which is something he mentioned being interested in doing and trying to seek reconciliation. He mentioned that in the press conference on Saturday.
SIMON: And of course - just the charges against Attorney General Mark Herring. He's admitted to having been in blackface. Is the job of the government of Virginia getting done, Mallory?
NOE PAYNE: It is. I mean, we're in the middle of a busy legislative session. Lawmakers are still here. They're still working. They're busy writing and debating an approximately $60 million budget. There's a sense among most Republicans - they control the legislature - that they're just trying to keep their heads down, plug along and get the work done.
SIMON: Mallory Noe Payne of station WVTF in Richmond, Va., thanks so much for being with us.
NOE PAYNE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.