Former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder said Friday morning that claims of sexual harassment against him are untrue, days after an investigation funded by Virginia Commonwealth University found that he kissed a 20-year-old student without her consent.
The Democrat made the comments in a tweet, breaking his public silence on the matter for the first time since the start of the investigation five months ago.
“I want to thank the many people who have shared their continuous support and belief in me. I have made NO comments about the baseless allegations against me which have been proven to be untrue. Your faith in me is justified; the truth will out. STAY TUNED!” Wilder tweeted.
Wilder was found responsible for “non-consensual sexual contact ” but cleared of three other allegations made by the woman: sexual exploitation, sex- or gender-based discrimination, and retaliation, according to a two-page summary of the investigation’s findings.
Wilder and his assistant did not return calls and emails seeking comment Friday.
The student who made the allegations, Sydney Black, declined to comment through her attorney.
A VCU spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment.
VCU, the Richmond-based university where Wilder is a distinguished professor, hired an outside attorney-investigator with expertise in federal civil rights law to conduct the investigation.
Black filed a formal complaint with VCU in December 2018, withdrew from classes and is planning to continue her studies elsewhere.
Black, who is now 22, has said Wilder, 88, kissed her and made other overtures, including suggestions that she could live at his country house and accompany him on foreign travel. He also offered to pay for law school, she said.
She got to know the nation’s first elected African American governor in 2017, while she worked as an office assistant at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU. Black has said that after she rebuffed his advances, Wilder told her there was no longer funding for her position.
The university on Tuesday sent Black a two-page letter marked “sensitive and private” that summarizes the investigation’s findings, as well as a 262-page report.
Wilder, a Richmond native, served as governor from 1990 to 1994.
He has until July 16 to contest the finding that he is responsible for non-consensual sexual contact, which would trigger a hearing by VCU’s Review Panel to determine whether the investigation was conducted properly.
If he accepts the findings, both sides would have to agree to a sanction. The Review Panel would step in if both sides cannot agree on a sanction, which could range from counseling to demotion, suspension and termination of employment, according to university policy.
VCU renewed Wilder’s annual employment contract on May 31, more than three months after the start of the investigation. The university did not respond to questions about why his contract was renewed in the midst of the investigation.
He is paid $150,000 annually to teach up to 24 credit hours, according to the latest copy of the contract, which expires June 30, 2020. The contract does not stipulate a minimum number of credit hours he must teach.