It is possible to devote extensive coverage to a major Democratic scandal. CBS proved it over the last three days. Since Sunday morning, Gayle King on various network programs interviewed the two women accusing Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor for over 33 minutes. In the same span of time, ABC and NBC offered no coverage to the claims of sexual abuse and rape against the politician.
King talked to Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson about what they allegedly endured at the hands of Fairfax. On Tuesday, Watson recounted her experience at Duke University in the year 2000: “He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me.... I tried several times to get up and was pushed back down, held down.... If you have to hold someone down, it's not consensual.”
On Sunday, King appeared on Face the Nation to talk about the allegations. She interviewed Watson and Tyson again on Monday’s CBS This Morning and Evening News and again on Tuesday’s This Morning. CBS’s coverage totaled 33 minutes and 35 seconds.
Though King and CBS deserve a lot of credit for covering the story, she never verbally identified Fairfax as a Democrat. A small on-screen graphic on Monday and Tuesday labeled “Justin Fairfax, LT. Gov. (D) Virginia.”
On Monday, King told viewers that one of the incidents happened “during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.” So, inferentially, one might figure it out. But there was never a direct identification that Fairfax is a prominent Democrat.
On Tuesday, she neutrally noted, “A legislative aide tells CBS News that Democrats have been negotiating with Republicans on terms for a potential hearing.” Let’s play the game of “imagine if this was a Republican.” Think it would be different?
ABC and NBC from Sunday to Tuesday morning skipped CBS’s scoop. The only exception is if you happened to be awake in the early hours of Monday morning. At 2:35 AM, ABC’s World News Now mentioned the latest details. But if you were asleep, too bad. ABC hasn’t shown video of the harrowing words of Watson and Tyson.
The two women offered painful, specific details as they recounted the assaults. Talking to King, Watson tearfully explained what Fairfax told her after the alleged rape.
GAYLE KING: Did you ever talk to him after he allegedly assaulted you, did you ever say, how could you do that to me, you were my friend?
MEREDITH WATSON: I did. One night, after it happened I was at a party on campus and he so, I went to leave, I left. He followed me out and was sort of following after me, calling after me. I was just running, trying to get away. I finally stopped and I turned around. All I said to him was, “Why? Why would you do that to me?” And he said, “I knew because of what happened to you last year, if I got you in the right situation, you would be too afraid of say or do anything about it.”
Crying, Watson concluded that the rape was premeditated: “He knew what he was going to do that night when he asked me to come over.” This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell deemed the interviews “compelling.” Indeed they were. So where were ABC and NBC?
On Tuesday, the two-hour-long Good Morning America devoted 3 minutes and 44 seconds to a “model father” who is “taking the internet by storm.” NBC’s Today offered 3 minutes and 40 seconds to a joint interview of Martha Stewart and rapper Snoop Dogg. Clearly, there was time to cover Fairfax.
The Virginia Genera Assembly is leaning towards having Watson and Tyson testify. This could be a fast moving story. But you wouldn’t know it by watching ABC and NBC. Once again, journalists are spinning for Democrats faced with serious allegations.
For more on the media interest in theFairfax, check out this Media Research Center study. After initially covering the story, the total amount of time fell off a cliff.
A partial transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CBS This Morning
GAYLE KING: On CBS This Morning, we are hearing more from the women who accused Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor of Virginia of sexual assault. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson say they have never met. They want to testify in front of the Virginia General Assembly against Justin Fairfax, second in line for the governor's seat. Now, he denies their assault allegations adamantly. Watson went public days after Tyson. She claims Fairfax assaulted and raped her in 2000 when they were students at Duke University. Some of the details she shared with us are disturbing. How did you know Justin Fairfax?
KING: So it wasn’t the first time you guys had hung out together, you’re saying?
MEREDITH WATSON: No, it was not.
KING: So, you didn't feel you were in danger? You had no concerns? You weren’t worried?
WATSON: I was not worried at all. I completely trusted him. We were hanging out and everything was normal. At one point he left the room and when he came back in the room, he sort of stood blocking the door, imposing the way he walked in the room. He shut the door. It was sort of like simultaneous, I heard the door click and the lights went off.
KING: Click, like locking the door?
KING: You think what?
WATSON: Oh, no. What's about to happen?
KING: You became concerned?
WATSON: Mm-hmm. Um, and — he did things that you shouldn't do to someone without their permission. I tried several times to get up and leave and was pushed back down.
KING: What happened?
WATSON: He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me. I was not on the bed. Initially, there was a couch. He pulled me over. I tried several times to get up and was pushed back down, held down.
KING: You made it clear, this is not what I want.
WATSON: It was very clear.
KING: Because you know he is saying this night was consensual.
WATSON: If you have to hold someone down, it's not consensual.
KING: When it was over, was there a conversation? What did he say? What did you say? What did he do?
WATSON: There wasn't a conversation. I just wanted to get to a safe space. I just left. It was humiliated, so I left. I told my two closest friends.
KING: What did you tell your two closest friends?
WATSON: I believe I told them something really awful had happened and I had been raped. I think I said that I was so humiliated I didn't want to talk about it anymore.
KING: Did you tell them Justin was the one who did that?
WATSON: I told them exactly who it was.
KING: How do you process that after it happens to you?
WATSON: It was a huge betrayal. He was my friend. I don't understand how you do that to somebody that you have been a friend to and has confided in you about things. I just don't understand how you do that.
KING: What kind of things did you confide to him?
WATSON: He knew that the year prior that I had been raped by someone and that nothing was done about it. He was a very good friend to me, which is why I would never have expected anything like this from him.
KING: You had been very candid you were sexual assaulted by a Duke basketball player. Did you tell anyone about that particular incident?
WATSON: I did. It took a couple of weeks. I was — I didn't really know how to respond when it first happened, but I did report it to an official at the university.
KING: The experts say that many times, if someone has been sexually assaulted, it happens again. You know, it's not — often, it's not an isolated incident. I think people looking at you say how could it happen to her twice in the same place at the same school? What do you say to that?
WATSON: I don't — I don't really know what to say to that because I don't understand how someone can think because it happens once it can never happen again. I just don't understand. I just don't understand that. You know, if you get in a car accident once in your life, will you never get in another car accident? You know, things happen. I did not ask for it to happen.
KING: You feel that Justin betrayed you because you confided in him about that incident.
KING: Did you ever talk to him after he allegedly assaulted you, did you ever say, how could you do that to me, you were my friend?
WATSON: I did. One night, after it happened I was at a party on campus and he so, I went to leave, I left. He followed me out and was sort of following after me, calling after me. I was just running, trying to get away. I finally stopped and I turned around. All I said to him was, “Why? Why would do that to me?” And he said, “I knew because of what happened to you last year, if I got you in the right situation, you would be too afraid of say or do anything about it.”
KING: Meredith, you hear that and think what?
WATSON: He knew what he was going to do that night when he asked me to come over.
KING: In response to Watson's allegations, a spokesperson says Fairfax took a polygraph test and it supports his denial, according to information released by his team characterizing, rather, the results. His spokesperson says Fairfax was truthful when he said he never had a conversation with Meredith Watson where “she implied sexual contact with him was non-consensual.” This spokesperson says Fairfax denies holding her down or preventing her from getting up from the alleged incident. Meanwhile, Duke tells CBS News they are reviewing policies and procedures whether they were activated and followed.
As for Watson's claim she had been assaulted by a Duke basketball player, the university said this in February, that it first learned of that allegation when it appeared in the press that month. And we should also say that Duke basketball player is on record saying he also did not sexually assault Meredith Watson. In the next half hour, Meredith Watson tells us why she expects some won't believe her story and why she wishes she told it a long time ago.
O’DONNELL: Very compelling to hear her story. I wonder if Lieutenant Governor Fairfax would publicly release the results of the polygraph. Lot more to this story.
KING: He says he's interested in having a conversation. We will see.
KING: The thing you keep hearing from most men, certainly after the Me Too movement is a woman can make a charge and a man has no defense. When we get into your word against his, why are you more credible than he is?
KING: Because there have been published reports about an ex-boyfriend who took out a peace order, which is a form of a restraining order in the state of Maryland. He claims you damaged his car, you threatened to commit suicide, held him hostage. And, you know, when you talk about your past being scrutinized, that is certainly something that's been brought up. You have financial problems, you have been involved in a messy relationship with the father of your daughter. How do you respond to those allegations?
KING: You have written in The Washington post, women of color who report rain, dismiss it by a greater disbelief and more abuse, if not complete and utter indifference. What did you mean by that?
KING: Do you think these stories are different when black women bring charges against black men?
WATSON: Absolutely because you are seen as betraying your race. You are seen as betraying black men.
KING: What is it that you want as you sit here today and share your story with us?
WATSON: I want action from the Virginia legislature. I will say this: There's no amount of money that could ever compensate for what he did to me or what I live with every day.
KING: Are you seeking money?
KING: You are not seeking money?
KING: So, when you saw Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s allegation, you thought what?
WATSON: I broke down in tears because I felt guilty.
KING: Why do you feel guilty?
WATSON: It happened to her after it happened to me.
KING: Now, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax denies Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson’s allegations against him. In a statement to CBS News, he says “I am able to hear the pain they have expressed, a pain I hope they are able to resolve and heal from. However, because I never assaulted them, I know my actions cannot be the source of that pain.” Both Watson and Tyson are calling for a hearing into the allegations. A legislative aide tells CBS News that Democrats have been negotiating with Republicans on terms for a potential hearing. But so far, a date has not been set. They go into session tomorrow and both women are hoping something will come of that. Both of them say they want the hearing, instead of the investigation because in many cases, they say, the results of the investigation can be kept private. They would like it to be open and in an open forum with all of them with all of them, including Justin Fairfax. They would like him to testify as well.
NORAH O’DONNELL: I don't think we have seen anything like that if that were to occur. Yeah, incredible.