Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax filed a defamation lawsuit against CBS News for airing interviews with two women who accused him of sexual assault, according to court documents filed Thursday in Virginia’s Eastern District.
Fairfax is seeking $400 million in damages and claims CBS News aired “intentionally fabricated, false, and politically motivated statements” made by Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson, who have accused him of sexual assault.
“CBS published, promoted, and amplified these false statements during separate interviews with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King broadcast by CBS to a national audience,” the suit states.
Fairfax also indicated that he feels CBS “had a clear agenda and media bias in seeking to support #MeToo accusers” after the network was plagued with its own issues.
Fairfax, a married Democrat, is bringing action to “restore his reputation and clear his name, ensure the truth prevails, stop the weaponization of false allegations of sexual assault against him, and vindicate his rights under civil law,” according to the suit.
CBS plans to defend itself against the accusations that are laid out in the 50-page filing.
“We stand by our reporting and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit," a CBS spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News.
“We stand by our reporting and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit."
The lawsuit against CBS appears to be Fairfax’s latest attempt to try and clear his name ahead of an expected gubernatorial run in 2021. The filing comes after weeks of speculation that Fairfax planned some type of legal action against the women accusing him of sexual assault.
The statute of limitations for his first accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, apparently expired and Fox News reported in July that Fairfax argued the allegations were made to do “nothing more” than smear his reputation and political career
Tyson had accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on July 28, 2004, during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. The statute of limitations for an alleged rape is 15 years in Massachusetts.
Tyson did not file a criminal complaint against Fairfax.
Watson, a former classmate of Fairfax’s at Duke University, also accused him of sexual assault that she said took place in 2000 but she did not file criminal charges. There is no statute of limitations in North Carolina.
Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegations and previously called for a law enforcement investigation into the allegations.
“In April 2019, nearly two months after Watson and Tyson first went public with their false allegations in February 2019, CBS aired their interviews despite having ample opportunity and resources to investigate the veracity of their stories. CBS also had information both before and after publishing these defamatory interviews indicating that both allegations had not been corroborated by any independent investigation,” the suit states. “Yet, CBS recklessly disregarded whether what Watson and Tyson were saying was, in fact, true.”
The filing indicates that CBS could have aired “false claims of sexual assault” because the network has its own issues related to allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Since 2017, CBS had been publicly excoriated with its own #MeToo scandals involving several high-ranking figures at the network, including ‘CBS This Morning’ co-anchor Charlie Rose, former CBS News Chairman and former Executive Producer of ‘60 Minutes’ Jeff Fager and former CBS CEO Les Moonves,” the suit said.
The document continued: “Upon information and belief, in the immediate aftermath of those high-profile #MeToo scandals, the network sought to visibly align itself on the side of perceived victims to improve its public image.”
Rose, Fager and Moonves are no longer at CBS after being accused of misconduct.
“As a result of that bias, CBS abandoned sound, standard journalistic practices that would have revealed fabrications, inconsistencies, and provably false statements made by Watson and Tyson and undermined the credibility of their stories,” the suit said.
Fairfax has suffered “severe emotional distress” from the accusation and is seeking $400 million as a result. He has also demanded a jury trial.
“As alleged in the complaint, the utterly irresponsible journalism of CBS took the false allegations to an entirely different level by broadcasting them to a national audience and republishing them to millions of people,” Fairfax’s spokeswoman said in a statement. “The media must act responsibly when facts are uncovered that reveal the full truth of a situation, especially in the era of the #MeToo Movement."
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.