by Edwin Santana and Ayodele Okeowo
Just when everyone thought things couldn’t get worse for Virginia Democrats, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax released a statement at 3 AM on Monday morning rejecting charges that he had sexually assaulted a woman in Boston in 2004. While the state and national Democratic Party were quick to condemn and call for the resignation of Governor Ralph Northam after revelations of a racist photo from his medical school yearbook surfaced, the reaction has been comparatively muted for the Lieutenant Governor.
Many of us immediately demanded the governor’s resignation after seeing the yearbook photos. To us, it was either horrifically racist to be in those photos, or Northam displayed the absolute worst judgement and taste by allowing those pictures to represent him in the yearbook. The evidence was right before our eyes. When the story about the Lieutenant Governor broke, we had a different reaction. we immediately questioned the source, then the accuser. Like many others, we asked why now?
We now realize we’d fallen into a trap.
Like many on the right who we would swiftly condemn, we had doubts in our mind about a woman who would step forward and share this story. That was wrong. The first question we should be asking isn’t “why is she doing this?”, but “how do we get to the bottom of this?” Democrats need to aggressively pursue the truth here, in a way that respects the woman who came forward, and also respects the rights of the accused. We can and must do both.
Governor Ralph Northam is accused of being racist and/or exhibiting extremely poor judgment in pictures from 35 years ago. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is being accused of possibly committing a serious crime (sexual assault) 15 years ago. The reaction from the left has been neither swift nor appropriate for the circumstances. That needs to change now.
We call on state legislators and the Democratic Party to demand an investigation into what happened that night in Boston. Democrats must continue to be the party that listens to women and demands accountability when they step forward. This isn’t a call for Justin Fairfax’s resignation, but a demand that an appropriate investigation be conducted that will do justice to both parties involved. If Democrats want to continue to hold the high ground on these moral issues – including being the party that believes women – we need to ensure that the accountability of elected officials doesn’t end when it’s one of our own.