Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., was made aware of an allegation of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax more than a year ago, an aide told Fox News on Thursday -- the latest development in a deepening crisis facing the state’s Democratic officials.
An aide to Scott told Fox News that he was made aware of the allegation in December 2017 and January 2018, but that he did not know the details at that point. The aide said that Vanessa Tyson -- who this week issued a statement detailing her accusation that Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention -- initially just said there was a “MeToo” allegation involving Fairfax.
Scott's knowledge of the allegation was first reported by ABC News. The aide to Scott told Fox News that Scott had been friends with Tyson for years, and she first approached him as The Washington Post was first looking into her allegations. The aide said Tyson did not personally share details of the allegation, and that he only learned a limited amount of information from reporters at the Post, who contacted him at Tyson's request.
Scott was accused in 2017 of sexually harassment by a former congressional aide, who claimed she was fired and blackballed from work on Capitol HIll when she refused his advances.
Tyson, a professor at Scripps College in California, alleged Wednesday in a statement that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in a hotel room after the convention.
"With tremendous anguish, I am now sharing this information about my experience and setting the record straight. It has been extremely difficult to relive that traumatic experience from 2004. Mr. Fairfax has tried to brand me as a liar to a national audience, in service to his political ambitions, and has threatened litigation. Given his false assertions, I’m compelled to make clear what happened," she said in the statement.
Hours before the release, Fairfax put out his own updated statement, forcefully denying the allegations but saying that "while this allegation has been both surprising and hurtful, I also recognize that no one makes charges of this kind lightly, and I take it and this situation very seriously.”
Fairfax reiterated that he had a “consensual encounter with the woman who made the allegation” when he was an unmarried law student.
Fairfax added, “These are unprecedented and difficult times. We have the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of the challenge and come together. I look forward to continuing my work to unify the Commonwealth.”
The controversy initially drew silence from many national Democrats, but there are signs of that changing, with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., weighing in Thursday.
“I think the letter written by the woman reads as a credible account and I think there should be an investigation to get to the bottom of it and determine the facts,” Harris, a top 2020 presidential hopeful, said.
Freshman Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., tweeted her support for Tyson on Wednesday evening.
Fairfax’s accusation was made public just days after Gov. Ralph Northam was engulfed in controversy over a blackface photograph that appeared on his 1984 yearbook page. If Northam were to resign, Fairfax would be in line to succeed him.
Adding to the turmoil, state Attorney General Mark Herring, the next in the line of succession, posted a lengthy statement on Wednesday admitting he, too, had donned blackface -- this, during a college party in 1980. Expressing regret, he said he wore brown makeup and a wig to look like a black rapper during a party at the University of Virginia.
Fox News’ Gregg Re, NuNu Japaridze and Garrett Tenney contributed to this report.