Virginia lawmaker backs off impeachment effort against Justin Fairfax

A Virginia lawmaker is backing off plans to file impeachment papers against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has been accused by two women of sexual assault, saying “additional conversations” are needed first.

“Yesterday I sent draft language to my colleagues on the first step of an impeachment action regarding the Lt. Governor,” Delegate Patrick Hope tweeted early Monday. “There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed.”

Hope, a Democrat, said he believes Fairfax’s accusers, Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, and vowed to continue to pursue the matter “until we have a process and outcome that treats these women with the respect they deserve going forward.”

He said the conversations are needed to explore options open to the General Assembly and to “build more consensus on a path forward.”

Watson claims Fairfax raped her in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University, and Tyson accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex on him in a Boston hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Fairfax has said the encounters were consensual and has called on the FBI to launch an investigation into their claims.

He is among the top three Democrats in the state who have been rocked by scandal in the past couple of weeks.

Gov. Ralph Northam is fighting off calls to resign after a photo of a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood was revealed in his 1984 medical school yearbook.

Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface when he was a student in 1980 to emulate his favorite rapper Kurtis Blow.

If all three men resign, House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican, would be next in line for the governorship.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said in an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he “wasn’t going anywhere” and urged reconciliation.

“Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” he said. “Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”

In the interview, he was also corrected by CBS anchor Gayle King over his comment equating slaves with indentured servants.

Northam noted that 400 years ago, “the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores.”

King quickly rebuked him: “Also known as slavery.”

“Yes,” he replied.