So was Brett Kavanaugh, but he had more standing for it, if readers will pardon the pun. In a phone interview with the Washington Post last night, Justin Fairfax insisted that he will not resign despite the emergence of multiple accusers and allegations of sexual assault. Virginia’s lieutenant governor plans to show up in the state senate as usual, and claims that he’s “standing up for due process”:
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) said he will not step down and will preside over the Senate Monday regardless of any attempts to remove him from office amid allegations that he sexually assaulted two women.
In a telephone interview with The Washington Post Sunday night, as fellow Democrats considered launching impeachment proceedings against him, Fairfax repeated his claim that he did not sexually assault his two accusers or anyone else.
The two women deserve to be heard, but at the same time, he deserves due process, Fairfax said.
“Even in the most difficult times, including ones like these, that’s when it’s most important to adhere to our highest values as Americans,” he said. “And due process is at the heart of our constitutional democracy in order to get to the truth and be true to what we are as Americans. . .. Everyone deserves to be heard. … even when faced with those allegations, I am still standing up for everyone’s right to be heard. But I’m also standing up for due process.”
Didn’t we already have this discussion in September of last year? We did indeed, and yet I don’t recall hearing Justin Fairfax “standing up for due process” when the shoe was on Kavanaugh’s foot. In fact, no Democrat comes to mind as a defender of due process during that episode. Even those Senate Democrats who balked at the most extreme versions of McCarthyism in that episode still demanded Kavanaugh’s withdrawal from his nomination to the Supreme Court without any evidence of wrongdoing.
And the case against Fairfax is much more specific than it was against Kavanaugh. David French outlined the differences a week ago before a second accuser came forward:
Indeed, Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations are so far from “more likely than not” that competent litigators wouldn’t dream of taking the claims against him to civil court. To this day, those allegations are wholly uncorroborated and riddled with inconsistencies. Ford’s witnesses can’t even place Kavanaugh and Ford together at the party in question — much less in the same bedroom — and Ford’s testimony has been inconsistent on such matters as her age at the time of the attack, the number of witnesses, and even the number of attackers. Moreover, Ford deliberately withheld from the public evidence that was relevant to her claims, including her therapists’ notes and complete polygraph records. …
The Fairfax accuser came forward far sooner than Ford, she identified the specific time and place of the attack, the accused agreed that he was with the accuser at that time and place, there was an admitted sexual encounter, and — according to the Post — the paper “did not find significant red flags and inconsistencies” in her claims. Indeed, by making that statement, the Washington Post already contested a key Fairfax defense …
Based on the obvious problems and inconsistencies with even the first version of Ford’s claims, I expressed skepticism from the outset. But given that there was reportedly an admitted sexual encounter between the accuser and Fairfax, aren’t there at the very least grounds for serious concern? Based on the available evidence (and without seeing any person tested by cross-examination), it’s far too premature to say that it’s more likely than not that Fairfax is guilty or to demand his resignation. It’s not too premature to wonder, however, whether “believe women” or “believe survivors” will apply with equal ferocity to more credible claims against a promising young Democrat.
Interestingly, the same people who rushed to judgment on Kavanaugh — Democrats — are mainly the same judgment-rushers on Fairfax. Some Republicans have called for Fairfax’s resignation without any test of the allegations too, but most of the boot-Fairfax momentum has come from his own party. Their Kavanaugh campaign left them in a vulnerable position: if they don’t push Fairfax to resign, then it exposes their campaign against Kavanaugh as entirely politically motivated. If they do push Fairfax to resign, they’re potentially falling back into the Al Franken trap, especially if the allegations can’t be proven.
Some of us may be gloating over the goose-gander-sauce aspect of this story, but we should take care to focus on the principles involved more than the personalities and partisan identification. We should insist on due process rather than a pitchfork-and-torches mob potentially inspired by social panics. Allegations alone should not ruin someone’s life and end their careers without testing the evidence and testimony. Fairfax may be “standing up for due process” entirely out of a selfish desire to save his own skin, but that doesn’t make him wrong.
In this case, the proper forum for due process is the Virginia legislature. Fairfax wants an FBI investigation, but the FBI has no jurisdiction for an investigation except to recheck its background investigation — the same as with Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats in the VA legislature backed down from an impeachment threat this morning, but that doesn’t relieve them from their responsibility to investigate the veracity of these allegations against a state constitutional officer. That would give Fairfax the due process he seeks and everyone else a chance to see whether there is any evidence that he conducted sexual assaults on two or more women. It would also give Fairfax an opportunity to support “everyone’s right to be heard,” as he claims to do in this interview.
Until that happens, the rest of us — Republicans and Democrats — should refrain from judgment on Fairfax. Democrats should have done the same with Kavanaugh on much flimsier allegations.