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Virginia lieutenant governor wants accusations investigated

AP  |  Richmond (US) 

Virginia's embattled lieutenant on Saturday called for authorities, including the FBI, to investigate sexual assault allegations made against him while defying widespread calls for his resignation with a plea for "space in this moment for due process."

Democratic Lt Gov issued a statement repeating his strong denials that he had ever sexually assaulted anyone and made clear he does not intend to immediately resign, despite having lost almost his entire base of support.

Meanwhile, Gov pledged to work at healing the state's racial divide and made his first official appearance a week after a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced and he acknowledged wearing blackface in the 1980s. Northam has also defied calls from practically his entire party to step down.

Saturday capped an astonishing week in that saw all three of the state's top elected officials embroiled in potentially career-ending scandals, and the state on the verge of collapse.

Two women have accused Lt Gov of sexual assault. After the second allegation was made Friday, Fairfax the second African-American to ever win statewide office was barraged with demands to step down from top Democrats, including a number of presidential hopefuls and most of Virginia's congressional delegation.

Northam now a year into his four-year term has told his top staff he's staying in office and said he wants to focus the rest of his term as on taking concrete steps toward increasing racial equality.

In his first interview since the scandal erupted, a chastened Northam told on Saturday that the uproar has pushed him to confront the state's deep and lingering divisions over race, as well as his own insensitivity. But he said that reflection has convinced him that, by remaining in office, he can work to resolve them.

"It's obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do," Northam said in the interview, conducted at the Mansion.

"There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity."

Northam said he planned to focus on addressing issues stemming from inequality, including improving access to health care, housing, and

He also repeated his contention that he is not pictured in the photo on his yearbook page that shows someone in blackface standing alongside someone in a hood and robe. But he could not explain how the photo wound up there, or why he initially had taken responsibility for it.

"I overreacted," he said. "If I had it to do over again, I would step back and take a deep breath."

On Saturday, Northam made his first since he denied being in the photo, attending the funeral for a state trooper killed in a shootout. But he made no public comments upon arriving in Chilhowie, four hours west of the tumult in Richmond.

The lieutenant did not make any public appearances Saturday and released his statement late in the day, after Republican state and the of joined a chorus of other calls for Fairfax to resign.

Two women have made allegations against Fairfax. A lawyer for Meredith Watson, 39, said in a statement that Fairfax raped Watson 19 years ago while they were students at

Vanessa Tyson, a college professor, said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him at a Boston hotel in 2004.

Fairfax has denied both allegations and on Saturday asked that "no one rush to judgment." "Our American values don't just work when it's convenient they must be applied at the most difficult of times," he said.

Since the two allegations were made, many top Democrats running for in 2020 have called for Fairfax's resignation, including Sens. of New Jersey, of New York, and of

Virginia's Democratic congressional delegation was split.

Party elders Sen and Rep. said Fairfax should resign if the allegations against him were true.

Other congressional Democrats made unqualified calls for Fairfax to resign.

The Black joined calls for Fairfax's departure.

And a of the state House, Del. Patrick Hope, said he intends to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax on Monday if Fairfax hasn't left by then.

Hope is not a powerful figure in the and there's little sign there's a broad appetite for impeachment with lawmakers set to finish this year's legislative session by the end of the month.

Attorneys for Watson and Tyson released separate statements Saturday, saying their clients would be willing to testify at an impeachment hearing.

"Ms Watson stands ready, although it will be painful, to tell the what Mr. Fairfax did to her when she was 20 years old," a statement released by Watson's said.

A statement released by Tyson's attorneys said: "We are confident that once the hears Dr. Tyson's harrowing account of this sexual assault, the testimony of many corroborating witnesses, and evidence of his attempts to mislead the public about The Washington Post's decision not to run a story in 2018, it will conclude that he lacks the character, fitness and credibility to serve in any capacity.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, February 10 2019. 13:10 IST