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Northam’s Would-Be Successor Denies Sexual-Assault Accusation

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax speaks on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., November 7, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Embattled Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s would-be successor, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, on Monday denied an accusation of sexual assault against him, saying he has “never assaulted anyone.”

“Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect,” read a statement from Fairfax’s chief of staff and communications director. “He has never assaulted anyone — ever — in any way, shape, or form.”

“This is part of the sad and dark politics that the Lt. Governor has dedicated himself to helping Virginia and the nation rise above,” the statement added.

The statement appears to reference an accusation from Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps College in California, who claims Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

“Imagine you were sexually assaulted during the DNC Convention in Boston in 2004 by a campaign staffer. You spend the next 13 years trying to forget it ever happened,” Tyson wrote in a private post that reporters said she gave permission to be made public. “Then by strange, horrible luck, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll get a VERY BIG promotion.”

Fairfax’s statement threatened legal action against those spreading the “defamatory and false” allegation and said the Washington Post already investigated Tyson’s claim and declined to publish the story, finding it not credible.

Fairfax is next in line to take over the governorship from Northam, the scandal-plagued Democratic governor who has so far refused to resign despite calls from his own party to do so. On Friday, a photo on Northam’s medical-school yearbook page surfaced that showed one individual in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. After initially apologizing and appearing to admit that he was one of the two men in the photo, Northam backtracked on Saturday, denying that he was either of the two men.

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