WASHINGTON – Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said during the state’s Democratic governor debate on Tuesday night that he was treated like George Floyd and Emmett Till when Democrats immediately called for his resignation after two women l ‘charged with sexual assault in 2019.
Towards the end of the hour-long televised debate at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va., Fairfax responded to a question about the future of policing in the state with a setback against former Governor Terry McAuliffe, who shows up again for the office.
“George Floyd’s murder was horrific,” Fairfax said. “But it does bring back a story in Virginia and our country where African Americans, especially African Americans, are presumed guilty, are treated inhumanly, lack due process, and have their lives affected, at times. swept away in an instant. “
Fairfax, who is Black, then gave the example of the allegations in 2019, saying he had been “falsely accused” of sexual assault. Fairfax specifically identified McAuliffe’s response when the allegations surfaced. The other candidates also called for his resignation following the allegations.
“Everyone here on stage called for my immediate resignation, including Terry McAuliffe three minutes after a press release came out,” Fairfax said. “He treated me like George Floyd; he treated me like Emmett Till – no due process, immediately assumed my guilt. I have a son and a daughter. I never want my daughter to be assaulted, I don’t want my son to be falsely accused. And yet, this is the real world we live in. “
In 2019, Meredith Watson alleged that she was raped by Fairfax while they were students at Duke University in 2000. Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex in 2004 while they were both at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Fairfax denied the charges and said he would remain in office. He also called for an FBI investigation into the allegations and said his meetings with the accusers were consensual.
McAuliffe’s campaign declined to comment on Fairfax’s remarks during the debate.
Lauren Burke, spokesperson for Fairfax, told NBC News that the lieutenant governor was trying to point out that he had to repeatedly request investigations into his allegations, to no avail.
“As a black man who holds the second highest position in Virginia, he received no due process from Terry McAuliffe – the only allegation was a conviction, as McAuliffe demanded that the Lieutenant Governor” resigns immediately “a few minutes after a press release,” she said. “Who can claim to believe in racial justice without due process? If the second highest black person in Virginia can’t get basic due process, what chance does anyone else have in Virginia?”
Fairfax’s remarks come as former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd last year. Chauvin is charged with second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. The high-profile trial is expected to last several weeks.
The other Democratic candidates on stage Tuesday were former delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, State Senator Jennifer McClellan and Del. Lee Carter.
The debate was one of four for Democratic gubernatorial candidates, but the only debate before advance voting in person begins in the Commonwealth on April 24. The Democratic primary elections take place on June 8.