From the Washington Post today:
“A Maryland woman said Friday she was raped by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) in a “premeditated and aggressive” assault in 2000, while they both were undergraduate students at Duke University. She is the second woman this week to make an accusation of sexual assault.
The woman, Meredith Watson, said Friday in a written statement through her attorney that she shared her account immediately after it happened with several classmates and friends. Watson did not speak publicly Friday and her lawyer did not make her available for an interview.
Watson was friends with Fairfax at Duke but they never dated or had any romantic relationship, the lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said.
“At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character,” Smith said in the statement . “She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.”
An unrelated accusation of conduct X does not mean that a previous unsubstantiated accusation of the same conduct is true. However…
- In the case of habitual or characteristic misconduct—like being a sexual predator or a sexual harasser—the likelihood that there have been more, undisclosed episodes involving the individual accused is high.
- Thus the absence of a credible second (or third, fourth, and onward) accuser in a matter like this is legitimate evidence arguing for the innocence of the accused. An example would be Clarence Thomas.
- When subsequent allegations are substantially similar to the original accusation, they are especially damning. Bill Cosby is the poster case for this variation. Another exampole: Kevin Spacey.
- When the second and additional allegations are suspiciously timed, as during an election or a political controversy, when they involve general misconduct only, lack named accusers or when they are sketchy in their facts and proof, they should be regarded with extreme skepticism. The add-on Kavanaugh accusations fit this description.
- The fact that a court decision or an official investigation has not definitively determined that misconduct has taken place does not require individuals, groups and the public to discard commons sense, if they can eliminate bias from their decision-making. O.J. Simpson, it is fair to say, is guilty of murder, and it is completely fair to regard him in that light. Barry Bonds used banned and illegal drugs to enhance his major league baseball career. Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator who traded professional advancement for sex. We don’t need admissions here to come to informed decisions.
Now what does all of this mean for Justin Fairfax, next in line to be Governor of Virginia if Governor Northam decides, as an honorable public servant should, that he has made such an irredeemable ass of himself by his obfuscations, double-back flips, and tap-dancing around the question of whether he had a photo of himself in blackface in his yearbook that no Virginian in his or her right mind could possibly feel secure trusting such a boob to handle the affairs of the Commonwealth? What is fair?
If Fairfax indeed raped or sexually assaulted one or both of these women, and only he knows, then he should resign. No state should have a felon, charged or not, convicted or not as governor. If he did not rape either woman, then his decision is political as well as ethical. Can he do a good job as governor of Virginia if he cannot clear his name and convince objective observers that the accusation is false? Will sufficient numbers of Virginians trust him? Will substantial numbers of Virginians want to be governed by a plausibly accused rapist? The fact that he may want to be Governor, feel he deserves to be Governor, and that his career is being derailed unfairly are irrelevant to the decision. If he cannot do the job, if he will not be trusted, if his continued tenure in defiance of the accusations harms the state, the public, and the party, then he is ethically obligated to step down. innocent or not.
The second accusation does not render him guilty.
I think it does render him unable to serve.
Addendum: to my Democratic Facebook friends, some of them lawyers, who opined today that Fairfax should remain because they would rather have someone who is a double-rapist by Governor than allow Republicans to run the state, you are seriously and sadly corrupted, and I’m ashamed of you.