CBS Fears Hearing With Dem’s Accusers Would Be ‘Political Stunt’

Despite interviews earlier in the week with two women accusing Virginia’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, on Thursday, CBS This Morning worried that holding a public hearing on allegations would “just be a political stunt” by state Republicans. The report also took time to tout Fairfax passing polygraph tests when asked about the claims.

“The two women at the center of this controversy say they want to testify in public,” correspondent Jeff Pegues reported from outside the Virginia state house in Richmond, referring to calls from accusers Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson for lawmakers to hold a bipartisan hearing. However, the reporter immediately threw a wet blanket on the idea: “But chances are that hearing never happens. It would be unprecedented, it would be politically explosive.”

Pegues added: “Fairfax, who is a Democrat, says it would not be the right vehicle to get at the truth.”

 

 

The journalist then promoted what Fairfax thought the “right vehicle to get at the truth” was:

Seeking to clear his name, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax released the results of two polygraph exams, each with questions about his encounters with Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson. Fairfax says he voluntarily took and passed both tests.

After playing clips of Tyson and Watson talking to co-host Gayle King in back-to-back interviews days earlier, Pegues noted: “State Republicans have called for a bipartisan public hearing later this year that would pit Fairfax against his two accusers.” Footage then ran of Pegues grilling Republican Virginia House of Delegates Majority Leader Todd Gilbert about efforts to organize a hearing: “And wouldn’t that just be a political stunt?”

Gilbert pushed back: “This is too important and too compelling to be left to being framed as some sort of partisan effort.”

Wrapping up the piece, Pegues declared: “Fairfax has said he believes that a public hearing would only sensationalize the allegations against him, but his accusers say it offers complete transparency.”

There was no mention of where state Democratic legislators stand on holding a hearing, let alone any criticism of them.

After the report ended, King chimed in by oddly comparing the call for a hearing to the Mueller investigation: “That is exactly what they say. Someone asked me the other day, they asked me, ‘Well, Gayle, have you seen the Mueller report?’ ‘Uh, no.’ That’s why they want a hearing as opposed to an investigation.”

While King did a good job covering the allegations against Fairfax and providing a forum for his accusers to speak, it’s troubling that network would attack Virginia Republicans only days later for trying to set up the very bipartisan hearing that Tyson and Watson called for.

Here is a full transcript of the April 4 report:

7:17 AM ET

GAYLE KING: Virginia’s embattled lieutenant governor is urging prosecutors in two states to investigate sexual assault allegations him. Justin Fairfax spoke publicly yesterday for the very first time since Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson detailed their accusations. He said the women’s allegations are not true. His comments came as Virginia lawmakers failed to agree on a proposal to have the women testify under oath. Jeff Pegues is outside the capitol in Richmond, Virginia with more on this story. Jeff, good morning.

JEFF PEGUES: Good morning. The two women at the center of this controversy say they want to testify in public. But chances are that hearing never happens. It would be unprecedented, it would be politically explosive. Fairfax, who is a Democrat, says it would not be the right vehicle to get at the truth.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: VA Lt. Gov. Denies Assaults; Fairfax Urges Prosecutors in Two States to Investigate Allegations Against Him]

JUSTIN FAIRFAX: I knew that the allegations made against me were false from the moment I first heard them. That is why I denied them.

PEGUES: Seeking to clear his name, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax released the results of two polygraph exams, each with questions about his encounters with Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson. Fairfax says he voluntarily took and passed both tests.

FAIRFAX: Such conduct is against everything I have stood for in both my public and private life.

PEGUES: Watson and Tyson went public with their allegations against the Governor [sic] in February. They spoke with Gayle King in interviews that aired this week.

VANESSA TYSON: And he’s holding my head so I can’t lift – like I’m trying to lift my head, but I can’t.

MEREDITH WATSON: Initially there was a couch and he pulled me over and I tried several times to get up and was pushed me back down, held down.

PEGUES: Fairfax disputes many of the details the women put forward, including with Tyson says they first met on July 26 at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

FAIRFAX: Senator Edwards and I were not in Boston on that date.

PEGUES: Fairfax maintains both encounters were consensual.

FAIRFAX: I did not rape or sexual assault Meredith Watson.

PEGUES: State Republicans have called for a bipartisan public hearing later this year that would pit Fairfax against his two accusers. Todd Gilbert is the Majority Leader.

[TO GILBERT]: And wouldn’t that just be a political stunt?

TODD GILBERT [R-VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES]: This is too important and too compelling to be left to being framed as some sort of partisan effort.

PEGUES: Fairfax has said he believes that a public hearing would only sensationalize the allegations against him, but his accusers say it offers complete transparency. Norah?

O’DONNELL: Alright, Jeff, thank you.

KING: Norah, that is exactly what they say. Someone asked me the other day, they asked me, “Well, Gayle, have you seen the Mueller report?” “Uh, no.” That’s why they want a hearing as opposed to an investigation.

O’DONNELL: Okay.

KING: Something to think about.  

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