Virginia lieutenant governor and Morrison & Foerster partner Justin Fairfax vehemently denied allegations of sexual assault Monday, even as a different political scandal appeared poised to unseat his boss and thrust him into the governorship.
Big League Politics, a political blog run by a former Breitbart News reporter, published a report Sunday tying Fairfax to an alleged sexual assault during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The assault was described in a private Facebook post by a woman who did not name her alleged attacker.
The Washington Post on Monday confirmed that the woman had also brought her allegations against Fairfax to the newspaper after he was elected in November 2017, but it did not run a story because it could not corroborate her account or uncover similar accusations by others. The Post said Fairfax had described the encounter as consensual, an assertion he repeated to reporters Monday.
Fairfax issued a categorical public denial of the accusations via Twitter just before 3 a.m. Monday, stating that he “will take appropriate legal action against those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation.”
“Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect,” Fairfax said in his statement. “He has never assaulted anyone—ever—in any way, shape, or form.”
Fairfax is next-in-line to run Virginia if embattled Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam steps aside over his use of blackface before he launched his political career. Last week Big League Politics published Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page, which showed a man dressed in blackface smiling next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
Northam has denied the photo featured his image, but admitted to darkening his skin in the past while sporting a Michael Jackson costume.
Morrison & Foerster D.C. managing partner Joseph Palmore and a spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment regarding Fairfax’s potential ascension to the commonwealth’s top office, nor to the allegation of sexual assault against him.
Fairfax, 39, joined MoFo’s litigation, trials, investigations and white-collar defense groups last year. A former federal prosecutor, he was litigation counsel at Venable when he was elected Virginia’s lieutenant governor in 2017.
The lieutenant governor position is part-time in Virginia, accompanied by a $36,000 salary, and Fairfax’s predecessors similarly moonlighted in other jobs while holding the public office.
“Justin is a rising star whose addition highlights the firm’s strategy of hiring experienced lawyers who understand government and the private sector,” said Brad Wine, co-chair of the firm’s litigation department, in September 2018. “Justin will help us continue to meet our clients’ needs as we further expand our presence in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.”
It remains unclear when Morrison & Foerster became aware of the allegation against Fairfax, including whether he informed his new firm of the allegation himself.
Fairfax’s political future could be up in the air, but most of the political pressure is trained squarely on Northam, coming from such Democratic Party leaders as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and failed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Northam has thus far resisted calls to resign. He met with Virginia officials Sunday, hours before the allegations against Fairfax became public, but Fairfax was reportedly not present.