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Opinion We might finally get the truth about allegations against Justin Fairfax

Then-Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-Va.) at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va., on April 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“It is time to get answers to the questions that surround these troubling cases.” That is what we wrote two years ago about the sexual allegations made by two women against then-Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-Va.). Mr. Fairfax, denying the allegations, had pushed federal and local law enforcement to investigate, but nothing happened and questions remain unanswered. Was Mr. Fairfax a serial sexual offender? Or was he — promising political career derailed and professional life shattered — the victim of a rush to judgment or, as he contends, something more sinister, a politically motivated attack? The FBI reportedly is now investigating the matter, which we hope will bring long-needed resolution.

The FBI, according to the Intercept, is probing the circumstances under which allegations of sexual assaults against Mr. Fairfax surfaced in February 2019. The allegations emerged when it appeared that Mr. Fairfax might soon become governor. Then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faced widespread calls to resign amid scandal over a blackface photo. Vanessa Tyson, a college professor, accused Mr. Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex in a Boston hotel room in 2004. Meredith Watson accused him of raping her while the two were students at Duke University in 2000. Mr. Fairfax acknowledged having sexual relations with the women but said the encounters were consensual.

As is its general rule, the FBI won’t confirm or deny if an investigation is underway. But Mr. Fairfax said he was interviewed by agents in early June for nearly three hours. Four other people, The Post’s Laura Vozzella reported, were contacted by the FBI. It is not clear what has now prompted the apparent interest. Mr. Fairfax told us that agents used the words “public corruption”; the Intercept reported that the FBI asked about whether money or other benefits were offered to either of the women around the time of the allegations and whether their accounts were inconsistent.

Mr. Fairfax has pointed to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) and former governor Terry McAuliffe (D) as being behind the allegations. Mr. Stoney and Mr. McAuliffe have denied the assertions. Attorneys for the two women said neither they nor their clients have heard from the FBI and that no one put them up to coming forward. “This is just the latest act of retaliation by Justin Fairfax,” the attorney for Ms. Tyson emailed us. “There is not one iota of evidence that would support his unhinged conspiracy theory.”

The women’s allegations have not been disproved, but Mr. Fairfax has raised some questions and pointed out some inconsistencies. Foremost is his assertion there was a witness to the Duke incident who will corroborate his claim the sex was consensual. He has contended a criminal investigation is best equipped to get to the truth and has pushed hard to get one — unsuccessfully appealing to prosecutors in Boston and Durham, submitting to a lie-detector test and now agreeing to talk to the FBI without an attorney present. The women declined to file criminal complaints.

We can’t think of another prominent man accused of sexual assault who has gone to such lengths — practically begging — for an investigation, which would put him at some risk. That, of course, doesn’t mean he is telling the truth and the women are lying, which for far too long was the assumption when rape victims came forward. The best way to try to determine who is telling the truth is to conduct an investigation, which is why the FBI’s apparent interest is welcome.

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Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

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