After Six Weeks of Silence, CBS Rediscovers Sex Claims Against VA Dem

After six weeks of ignoring the story, CBS on Sunday and Monday suddenly began to cover the women speaking out and accusing Virginia Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual abuse. On Monday, CBS This Morning offered a surprising 12 minutes to the harrowing recounting of Vanessa Tyson. Although, other than an onscreen graphic in small letters, co-host Gayle King never verbally mentioned that Fairfax is a Democrat. 

Tyson explained how she met Fairfax at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Two days later, he convinced her to come back to his hotel room to pick up some paperwork. Tyson became emotional as she recounted the kissing and Fairfax’s alleged efforts to force her to perform oral sex:  

 

 

KING: And then what happens? 

TYSON: We're kissing lying down, we're kissing so our heads are level with each other and it's, like, my neck didn't work. 

KING: What do you mean? 

TYSON: [Becomes emotional.] It was like I couldn't — I couldn't feel my neck, I couldn't hold my neck up. He's using his hand on the back of my neck and I didn't know what was going wrong, I thought there was something wrong with my neck and he's pushing down and pushing down and I couldn't hold my neck up and I didn't know what was going on. I honestly didn't know what was going on. The next thing I know my head is literally in his crotch and I'm choking and gagging and I couldn't say anything because I'm choking and gagging. And so —  it continues and he's holding my head so I can't lift —  I'm trying to lift my head but I can't. 

KING: Is he saying anything to you, Vanessa? 

TYSON: Nothing. 

KING: What are you thinking at this moment. 

TYSON: To be honest, I'm in total shock. 

The CBS hosts were supportive of Tyson. Bianna Golodryga sympathized: “Something clearly changed when she was walking through what transpired. And you could see where she got emotional to that dark place.”  

The only partisan identifications came when an on-screen graphic referred to Fairfax as “LT. Gov (D) Virginia.” Inferentially, one could figure out the party status when King explained that this all happened “during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.” King, it should be pointed out, is a Democratic donor and Obama family friend

The co-host talked to Tyson and a second accuser, Meredith Watson, for a combined 12 minutes and 12 seconds on Monday. (Sunday's Face the Nation also featured King’s interview for three minutes.) Before March 31, it was way back on February 17 that CBS's flagship morning and evening newscasts last covered the explosive allegations. This doesn't include the CBS Morning News, which airs in the Eastern time zone at 4:00 a.m.

According to Nexis, ABC last investigated the claims on February 11th. NBC covered the story on March 10th. In a Media Research Center study, Curtis Houck found that coverage of the three top Virginia Democrats fell off a cliff after initial coverage.

In week one, there was 116 minutes. Just 96 minutes in the second week and 8 minutes in week three. The scandals covered included: Tyson's allegations against Fairfax as well as separate black face revelations against Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring.)        

On February 11, King interviewed Northam and lobbied to understand the “context” of Northam wearing blackface and apparently posing in a picture next to someone wearing a KKK outfit. 

Watson, the second accuser, will be on Tuesday's CBS This Morning. Kudos to CBS for rediscovering the issue, even if it is belated. Now, if they would at least identify Fairfax as a Democrat. We know that would happen if he was a Republican. 

Transcripts from the two segments can be found below. Click “expand” to read more. 

CBS This Morning
4/1/19
7:32 AM ET  

GAYLE KING: Only on CBS This Morning, we are hearing from two women who accuse Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor of sexual assault. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson wants the state legislature, which reconvenes in two days, to hold a public hearing where they can testify under oath against Justin Fairfax. They came forward back in February after some lawmakers called on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to resign over a racist yearbook photo. Now, if Northam had resigned, Fairfax would have likely replaced him. Fairfax denies the women's allegations. Tyson, a politics professor, was the first to go public. She claims that Justin Fairfax assaulted her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Now, some of the details she shares with us are very disturbing. What were your impressions of him? 

VANESSA TYSON: He seemed very friendly, charismatic, Harmless even. He told me he was at Columbia Law School and we realized we had a mutual friend. So we immediately struck up a conversation. 

KING: So, you felt you had established a semi-rapport with him. 

TYSON: Certainly. It wasn't flirtatious. 

KING: Did you feel safe with him? 

TYSON: It was harmless. There was no red flags that suggested to me that he was a threat. 

KING: So how did you end up in his hotel room. 

TYSON: On the Wednesday of the convention, so roughly 48 hours after I met him, he suggested he had to run an errand. Did I want to come with him and get a breath of fresh air and sunshine. It’s early afternoon?  

KING: What does he tell you he needs to go to the hotel to do? 

TYSON: He just needed to pick up some paperwork, is what he said. Which sounded completely legitimate to me. 

KING: You're standing in the hotel room, Standing in the door. And then what happens?  

TYSON: He crosses the room, goes through his luggage, finds right paperwork, right, which I assumed we were there for, good, and then he crosses back around the bed and comes over to me and I'm still by the door and he kisses me. 

KING: And you think? 

TYSON: I was surprised. For a variety of reasons, I was surprised. But it wasn't unwelcome per se. 

KING: You’re saying it wasn't unwelcome and you are kissing him. And you are okay with the kissing. 

TYSON: Yeah. I was okay with the kissing. He kind of gently takes my hands and guides me toward the bed and we're still kissing, right? And it's completely consensual. He guides me to the bed and he sits down on the bed and what happens from there, you know, we start kissing lying down but on the very edge of the bed. 

KING: Okay, so I'm following. And then what happens? 

TYSON: We're kissing lying down, we're kissing so our heads are level with each other and it's like my neck didn't work. 

KING: What do you mean? 

TYSON: [Becomes emotional.] It was like I couldn't — I couldn't feel my neck, I couldn't hold my neck up. He's using his hand on the back of my neck and I didn't know what was going wrong, I thought there was something wrong with my neck and he's pushing down and pushing down and I couldn't hold my neck up and I didn't know what was going on. I honestly didn't know what was going on. The next thing I know my head is literally in his crotch and I'm choking and gagging and I couldn't say anything because I'm choking and gagging. And so —  it continues and he's holding my head so I can't lift —  I'm trying to lift my head but I can't. 

KING: Is he saying anything to you, Vanessa? 

TYSON: Nothing. 

KING: What are you thinking at this moment. 

TYSON: To be honest, I'm in total shock. 

KING: Do you say anything to him? No. 

TYSON: I didn't know what to say. I was just —  I was completely caught off guard. It was almost as if I was dumb struck. 

KING: Have you talked to Justin Fairfax since that day in 2004? 

TYSON: The next day I remember walking -- it was the last day of the convention and I remember walking -- you know, I was walking toward the staff lounge, I was going to go in there. I saw him in there. He didn't see me, and I just did a, you know, 180 and went the absolute opposite direction like I just didn't want —  didn't even want him to see me, didn't want him to like —  no. 

KING: So you —  you really haven't seen him since that incident in 2004. 

TYSON: No. I haven't seen him. I remember him trying to call me a couple of times, but I just didn't pick up. This is after the convention was over. I think he e-mailed me a few times as well. I never initiated contact. 

KING: Did you tell anyone this has happened? 

TYSON: No. 

KING: Why didn't you tell anyone, Vanessa? 

TYSON: I was so ashamed. I was so humiliated on so many levels I was this woman working at a rape crisis center, you know, trying to —  like as a survivor speaker trying to empower survivors from sexual assault and it was like I had just walked into a trap. 

KING: You just mentioned you were a survivor speaker, that you work at a rape survivor center. 

TYSON: Yes. 

KING: Of what? 

TYSON: Incest. 

KING: Did you share that with him? 

TYSON: Yes. 

KING: You felt comfortable sharing that with him even though you had just met him? 

TYSON: Here's the thing. That was probably the biggest part of my life at this time. 

KING: Do you feel he took advantage of you knowing your past? 

TYSON: In retrospect, yes. 

KING: Now, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax responded to accusations in a statement to CBS News. He says this. “I feel so strongly about my innocence this that I submitted a polygraph. I passed these tests because, as I've maintained from the very beginning, I did not assault either of my accusers.” And in the next half hour, Vanessa Tyson responds to the Lieutenant Governor’s claim that his two accusers are running a campaign to smear him.  She became very emotional. It was fascinating talking to her. I felt at some point it was almost like she was going back to the moment. 

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: You could see that in her eyes.  

KING: You could really see that in her eyes and people would say, yeah, she went to the hotel room, she agreed to kissing, isn't that on her? I can see as a young person you have a mutual friend and you think this guy is safe and kissing doesn't have to necessarily lead to what she says happened after that. 

GOLODRYGA: Something clearly changed when she was walking through what transpired. And you could see where she got emotional to that dark place. 

NORAH O’DONNELL: Yeah. Sounds like she was forced. 


8:03 AM ET 

KING: The first of two women accusing Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor of sexual assault said it is her civic duty to come forward. Vanessa Tyson is her name. She says that Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax assaulted her in 2004. Now, he categorically denies these allegations. When Tyson and Meredith Watson first told their stories, Tyson compared himself to victims of lynchings. Tyson responded to his claim in an interview you’ll see only on CBS This Morning. What do you make of Justin Fairfax comparing himself to a lynching victim? 

VANESSA TYSON: Never was it two black women lynching black men. One need only look at history to try to understand that, in fact, the role of black women ways been to -- you know, leading anti-lg campaigns. Black women were lynched specifically trying to lynch black men and speaking of someone who teaches politics, I find it disgraceful, irresponsible, and manipulative.

KING: Is this a racial issue to you? 

TYSON: Sexual assault should never be a racial issue. It should never be a partisan issue. Sexual assault is an epidemic that’s taking place around our world, across our country every day. 

KING: What do you want to happen to Justin Fairfax? Why are you coming forward? 

TYSON: I'd want him to resign. I think the Virginia people, the voters of Virginia, have a right to know, you know, both my story and Meredith's story. 

KING: He says this is an orchestrated smear campaign against him. 

TYSON: Yes. 

KING: By you and Meredith Watson. 

TYSON: I've never met Meredith Watson. I dodge know what she looks like. I have never spoken with her. 

KING: She also says she has never spoken to you or talked to you either. And when I talked with her, she feels tremendous guilt that she didn't come forward because it happened to her in 2000. 

TYSON: She can never blame herself. It wasn't her. It wasn't me. It was neither one of us. It was Justin Fairfax. One thing I will say is that it's hard. I can't even begin to tell you how hard it is to come forward, especially against someone powerful. And when she came forward, she didn't want me to feel alone. And that meant the world to me because it's just hard to be alone. 

KING: Meredith Watson came forward shortly after Vanessa Tyson made her accusations in February. She told us she's very sorry for not reporting her allegations, that Fairfax raped her nearly 20 years ago. Why do you feel guilty? 

MEREDITH WATSON: It happened to her after it happened to me. And had I had the strength or the courage to say something in 2000, maybe it never would have happened to her. 

KING: Fairfax maintains that both women are making false accusations. In a statement to CBS News the lieutenant governor said this to us. “I am able to hear the pain they have expressed, a pain I hope they're able to resolve and heal. However, because I never assaulted either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, I know that my actions cannot be the source of that pain.” You can find the full statement on our website at CBSNews.com. We're hoping Lieutenant Governor Fairfax will speak to us at some point. You'll see more of our interview with Meredith Watson tomorrow, including why she is asking for a public hearing as opposed to an investigation. And that she is ready to testify under oath. They both say they want to testify under oath. Both say it's about consensual because Justin Fairfax says they were consensual acts. And both of them say it can't be consensual because it felt forced. 

O’DONNELL: There's an incredible amount of pain. All these years later that pain stuck with them how they felt in the moment and how it's affected them for decades. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Think about the learning we've done. There was a period where people were saying, these people are coming forward after all these years. How are they coming forward? Why? We've now seen example afternoon example that it's as real as if it happened yesterday. 

KING: Exactly right, John.

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