Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is now accused of being behind the leak of a sexual assault allegation against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is in line to succeed the governor in the instance he gives in to widespread calls for his resignation.
Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Fairfax questioned the timing of the release of the 15-year-old allegation, which he called an "uncorroborated smear."
What are the details?
On Sunday, The Collective Political Action Committee released a statement saying, "We've learned through various sources that Governor Northam's team and advisors have now decided to start attacking Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax by spreading lies to reporters and state leaders in an attempt to quell support for the Lt. Governor as Governor Northam's impending successor should he resign."
The statement continued, "The Collective strongly encourages the public to be weary of impending, factless lies that are sure to plague Lt. Governor Fairfax on day one of his leadership should he ascend to become Virginia's 74th Governor and only the 2nd black governor in a state that formerly served as the headquarters of the confederacy."
The statement did not provide further details on what it referred to as "race-based attacks."
Late Sunday evening, Big League Politics broke a story detailing a sexual assault allegation against Fairfax dating back to 2004, causing Fairfax's office to acknowledge and deny the allegations within hours. Several news outlets, including The Washington Post, admitted to knowing of the allegations for months but sitting on the story until Big League Politics exposed it.
Speaking to reporters in the rotunda of Virginia's Capitol Monday afternoon, Fairfax was asked, "The Collective PAC, they said that you believe that the governor's team is spreading misinformation about your team, can you comment on that?"
Fairfax replied, "Collective PAC has made its statement, so I don't know precisely where this is coming from. We've heard different things, but here's the thing: Does anybody think it's any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that's when this uncorroborated smear comes out?"
"Does anybody believe that's a coincidence?" Fairfax asked again. "I don't believe anybody thinks this is a coincidence. Particularly, this isn't the first time this was brought up."
Fairfax then echoed the claim made by his team earlier that day, that the allegations had been investigated by The Washington Post for three months but the paper dropped the story because it was uncorroborated.
Before Fairfax's interview in the rotunda, The Washington Post published an article addressing his team's claims, confirming its investigation but saying it "could not find anyone who could corroborate either version." The newspaper added it "did not find 'significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations' as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said."