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Accuser says Justin Fairfax referenced her prior alleged sexual assault, said she'd be "too afraid" to report it

Fairfax accuser calls alleged rape "betrayal"
Justin Fairfax accuser Meredith Watson calls alleged rape "huge betrayal" 07:44

In her first interview about the alleged incident, one of the two women accusing Justin Fairfax of sexual assault told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King that she believes the now-Virginia lieutenant governor preyed on her because he knew she had been assaulted before.  

"He knew that the year prior that I had been raped by someone and that nothing was done about it. And he was a very good friend to me," Meredith Watson told King. "Which is why I never would've expected anything like this from him."

Watson claims Fairfax assaulted and raped her in 2000, when they were both students at Duke University. She said the two were friends and that she had confided in him about being allegedly assaulted by a Duke basketball player the year before.

"Did you ever talk to him [Fairfax] after he allegedly assaulted you, did you ever say, 'How could you do that to me, you were my friend?'" King asked.

"I did. One night after it happened … I was at a party on campus and he came and so I went to leave, like, I left. And he followed me out and was sort of following after me, calling after me," Watson said. "And I was just running trying to get away and then I finally stopped and I turned around. And 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 that if I got you in the right situation, you would be too afraid to say or do anything about it.'"

"Meredith, you hear that and you think what?" King asked.
"He knew what he was gonna do that night when he asked me to come over," Watson said.

Watson went public just days after Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her while they were both working at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Tyson and Watson say they've never met. Fairfax adamantly denies their assault allegations.

Watson said she and Fairfax met at the end of her freshman year of college and were "very good friends."

"He was someone I really trusted and … during my junior year one night, he invited me to come over to celebrate. He was nearing the end of his senior year and just wanted to hang out and I did not think anything of it because it was normal. It was something we'd done tons and tons and tons of times," Watson said.

Watson said because it wasn't the first time they'd hung out, she wasn't worried.

"I completely trusted him," Watson said. "We were hanging out and everything was normal … and at one point, he left the room. And when he came back in the room ... he sort of stood blocking. The door was sort of imposing, the way he walked in the room and he shut the door. And it was sort of, like, simultaneous. I heard the door click and the light went off."

The click Watson says she heard was the door locking.
"And you think what? King asked.
"Oh no, what's about to happen," she said. "And he did things that you shouldn't do to someone without their permission. And I tried several times to get up and leave and was pushed back down."

"He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me," Watson said. "I was not on the bed, initially. There was a couch. And he pulled me over and I tried several times to get up and was pushed back down, held down."

"It was very clear," she said.

Fairfax has said the night in question was consensual. To that, Watson said, "If you have to hold someone down, it's not consensual."

Afterward, Watson said there wasn't any conversation. She "just wanted to get to a safe space."
"I just left. It was humiliating," she said. "And so I left and I told my two closest friends."

"I believe I told them that something really awful had happened and that I had been raped. And I think I said that I was so humiliated I didn't want to talk about it anymore," she said.

Watson said she did tell those friends Fairfax was the one who had done it. "I told them exactly who it was," she said.
"It was a huge betrayal. He was my friend. I don't understand how you do that to somebody that you've been a friend to and who's confided in you about things. I just don't understand how you do that," she said.
Watson said that she waited a couple weeks before reporting to an official university that she was allegedly raped by a Duke basketball player.

"I didn't really know how to respond when it first happened. But I did report it to an official at the university," she said. 

"You know, the experts say that many times if someone has been sexually assaulted, it happens again. You know, that's it not – it often is not an isolated incident. And I think people looking at you would say, 'Well, how could it happen to her twice in the same place at the same school?' What do you say to that?" King asked.
"I don't really know what to say to that. Because I don't understand how someone could think that because it happens once it could never happen again," Watson said. "I just don't understand that. You know, if you get in a car accident once in your life, are you never – will you never get in another car accident? No. You know, things happen. And I did not ask for it to happen."

Watson said the Me Too movement gave her hope that her voice would be heard. But she also believes her past has been unfairly scrutinized since she stepped forward publicly with her story.

"I don't have anything to gain by coming forward," Watson said. "The only thing coming forward has done is invited criticism and chaos and scrutiny of me and put me under a microscope. And it's been difficult enough, what I've gone through the last 20 years. I didn't need this. But I had to tell the truth."

King noted reports about an ex-boyfriend who filed a peace order, a form of restraining order in Maryland, against Watson with claims she damaged his car, threatened suicide, and detained him against his will. "When you talk about your past being scrutinized, that is certainly something that's been brought up. That you have financial problems, that you were involved in a messy relationship with the father of your daughter," King added. "How do you respond to those allegations?" 

Justin Fairfax accuser Meredith Watson: "I don't want to give breath to the smears" 05:32


"What does that have to do with what happened to me in 2000? I don't-- I don't want to give breath to the smears that were put out... whether they're truth or lies. I don't want to give power to Justin and what he's done and put-- and act like I have to defend myself. I don't have to defend myself," Watson said. "Because nothing in my life that happened after that night is relevant to what happened that night."

In the Washington Post in February, Watson wrote an op-ed, saying: "Women of color who report rape know to expect a dismissive response characterized by even greater disbelief and more abuse, if not complete and utter indifference."

"What did you mean by that?" King asked.

"There's this expectation that we are supposed to protect our black men at all costs," Watson said, adding, "And there's been this idea that black women, I guess maybe because this had happened to us throughout history, that it's just something we're supposed to grin and bear and you keep it going."

"Do you think these stories are different when black women bring these charges against black men?" King asked.

"Absolutely... because you're seen as betraying your race. You know, you're seen as betraying black men ... but there's no recognition that a black man has betrayed you," she responded.

In coming forward, Watson said she wants action from the Virginia legislature.

"I'll say this, there's-- there is no amount of money that could ever compensate for what he did to me or what I live with every day," she said.

"Are you seeking money?"

"No," Watson said.

"You're not seeking money?"

"No. No. I just want-- I want-- I want to support Dr. Tyson. I want the people of Virginia to know the truth. And I would like the Virginia legislature to do the right thing," Watson responded.

When Watson saw Tyson's allegation, she said she "broke down into tears."

"'Cause I feel guilty," Watson said, choking up with emotion. "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've happened to her. And I know the pain that she's had to live with since it happened. And nobody should have to go through this. And I feel awful. I feel awful." 

Fairfax categorically denies Tyson and Watson's allegations against him. Both Watson and Tyson are calling for a public hearing into the allegations. A legislative aide tells CBS News Democrats have been negotiating with Republicans on the terms for a potential hearing, but so far a date has not been set.

In response to Watson's allegations, a spokesperson says Fairfax took a polygraph test and it supports his denials. That's according to information released by his team characterizing the results. His spokesperson says the test showed Fairfax was truthful when he answered that he never had a conversation with Meredith Watson where she implied his sexual contact with her was non-consensual. The spokesperson also says Fairfax denies ever holding Watson down or preventing her from getting up during the alleged incident.

Meanwhile, Duke tells CBS News the university is reviewing policies and procedures that were in place at the time these events are alleged to have occurred, and whether they were activated and followed.

As for Watson's claim that she had been assaulted by a Duke basketball player, the university said in February it first learned of that allegation when it appeared in the press that month.  

Fairfax responded to the accusations in a statement to CBS News, saying:

"I am, and have long been, a strong proponent of the rights of women in our society -- among them equal rights, reproductive rights, economic rights, the right to be heard and respected, the right to fair access to the criminal justice system, and right to be free from disrespect, harassment, and assault.

 At the same time, I also believe that we must find a way to ensure that our justice system and even the court of public opinion provide due process and fairness both to accusers and the accused.

I, for one, stand accused of crimes that I did not commit. 

I feel so strongly regarding my innocence that I submitted myself to polygraph tests for each of the accusations against me. I passed those tests because, as I have maintained from the very beginning, I did not assault either of my accusers.

I have also called for a fair, full, and impartial investigation of the allegations and my denials. I am completely confident that such an investigation would exonerate me and clear my good name, which I have spent a lifetime building.

My accusers have not filed criminal charges and they have not sued me. Instead, we see escalating media appearances and stated desire for a political process that is unprecedented in Virginia and could not be designed to get at the truth. Such a process would instead be a media circus used for partisan and political purposes.

Law enforcement authorities in Boston and Durham have demonstrated a sensitivity to those who wish to report a crime. A civil lawsuit as well would provide a forum for assessing the credibility of all parties. Given the seriousness of these accusations and the significant damage that leaving them unresolved will continue to do, we must ensure there is a legal forum to adjudicate these matters fairly and make an ultimate and evidence-based determination about the truth.

Notwithstanding my own innocence, I am aware of the importance that the voices of accusers be heard. For too long, women and men who have been sexually assaulted or harassed have been silenced and ignored.

I empathize with those who have lived for a long time feeling hurt and pain. And, while the evidence will continue to demonstrate the truth that I never assaulted either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, 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 either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, I know that my actions cannot be the source of that pain.

In the face of such serious allegations, there must be space for due process and deliberate investigation and evaluation in order to find justice. Our justice system is not perfect, but I am willing to submit myself to it to clear my name. As I indicated above, on March 29, 2019, I submitted to and successfully passed -- with regard to each allegation -- a lie detector test conducted by an expert in such tests who is a former FBI agent of 24 years. 

I repeat my consistent call for a full investigation by law enforcement in this matter so the full truth can be known. The truth will not be uncovered by television interviews or legislative hearings designed for political purposes. It can best be properly found by exhaustive and deliberate investigation by law enforcement professionals.  

We must all now insist on gathering evidence through an impartial law enforcement investigation and/or civil legal process in order to get to the truth."

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