Virginia delegate backs down on calls to impeach Justin Fairfax

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Virginia's lieutenant governor under pressure

A delegate in the Virginia legislature is backing down from calls he made to impeach Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax in the wake of allegations of sexual assault against him. Democrat Patrick Hope threatened to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax, telling reporters last week that there is "no question that violent sexual assault qualifies as an impeachable high crime." Hope said that he had drafted language for his colleagues as a first step to take action against the Lt. Governor.

But on Monday, Hope appeared to change his position, tweeting, "There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed."

The about-face comes as Fairfax remains adamant about staying in office, repeating on Saturday that he would not resign after two women came forward with accusations of sexual assault. Fairfax instead has called on "all appropriate and impartial investigatory authorities, including the FBI, to investigate fully and thoroughly the allegations against me."

The Democrat was first accused of sexually assaulting Vanessa Tyson at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 where he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him. Days later, a second woman, Meredith Watson, accused Fairfax of raping her while they were students at Duke in 2000.

Attorneys for both Tyson and Watson said in separate statements this weekend that their clients would be willing and prepared to testify at a impeachment hearing against Fairfax.

"We are confident that once the Virginia legislature hears Dr. Tyson's harrowing account of this sexual assault, the testimony of many corroborating witnesses, and evidence of his attempts to mislead the public about The Washington Post's decision not to run a story in 2018, it will conclude that he lacks the character, fitness and credibility to serve in any capacity," said Tyson's attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks.

"Ms. Watson stands ready, although it will be painful, to tell the Virginia Legislature what Mr. Fairfax did to her when she was 20 years old," said Nancy Erika Smith, attorney for Watson.

Fairfax, the second in line for the state's governorship, now attempts to see out his time in office as numerous Democrats call for his ouster, including embattled Governor Ralph Northam. In an exclusive interview with "CBS This Morning" co-anchor Gayle King on Sunday, Northam said that if the accusations against Fairfax are true, "I don't think he's going to have any other option but to resign."

First published on February 11, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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