Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax filed a defamation suit against CBS on Thursday, seeking $400 million in damages for the emotional distress inflicted upon him and his family by the network’s televised interviews with the women who accused him of sexual assault.
In April, CBS News anchor Gayle King interviewed two women who had accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting them: Vanessa Tyson, who claims Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him in a Boston hotel room in 2004, and Meredith Watson, who claims he raped her in 2000, while the pair were attending Duke University.
“Fairfax brings this action to restore his reputation and clear his name, ensure the truth prevails, stop the weaponization of false allegations of sexual assault against him, and vindicate his rights under civil law,” reads the lawsuit, which was obtained by the Associated Press.
According to the lawsuit, CBS had access to information “indicating that both allegations had not been corroborated by any independent investigation” prior to interviewing the two women. The network’s decision to move forward regardless thus constitutes evidence of malice, according to Fairfax’s legal team.
“The timing and circumstances of these false and salacious allegations demonstrate that it was a political hit job — a deliberate and calculated effort to permanently harm Fairfax’s political and professional career and to attempt to prevent him from becoming Governor of Virginia,” the lawsuit reads.
CBS is standing by its reporting and intends to fight the lawsuit, according to a statement released Thursday.
The allegations against Fairfax came as speculation was heating up that he could soon succeed Governor Ralph Northam, who, the public had just learned, featured a photo of a man in a blackface standing beside another man in a Ku Klux Klan uniform on his medical-school yearbook page. Immediately after the allegations against him became public, Fairfax argued that the timing suggested a political motive.