Virginia's Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) made a surprise speech before the state's Senate on Sunday, wherein he compared himself to the victims of "terror lynchings" in the state's past.
Fairfax was referring to calls for his resignation, stemming from the two sexual assault allegations that have surfaced against him in recent weeks. He further maintained his innocence and warned his critics against circumventing due process.
What are the details?
The speech came in response to remarks made by Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R), who rose to address Fairfax, telling the lieutenant governor: "I just want to personally thank you for your professionalism, the manner in which you have presided over the Senate during these times that are stressful for you and your family, and I am most appreciative of your even-handedness, your gentile manner, and the professionalism which you've demonstrated throughout this session."
Norment's comments were met with applause in the chamber. Fairfax expressed his gratitude for all of the encouraging words he and his family had received, before going into his assessment of the situation which he "had not planned to talk about."
"I've heard much about anti-lynching on the floor of this very Senate, where people were not given any due process whatsoever, and we rue that," Fairfax said. "And we talk about hundreds, at least 100 terror lynchings that have happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia under those very same auspices. And yet we stand here in a rush to judgment with nothing but accusations and no facts, and we decide that we are willing to do the same thing."
Fairfax added, "If we go backward and we rush to judgment and we allow for political lynchings without any due process, any facts, any evidence being heard, then I think we do a disservice to this very body in which we all serve."
How did lawmakers respond?
According to The Associated Press, "when [Fairfax] finished his five-minute impromptu speech, stunned senators sat in awkward silence."
Republican House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert reacted to Fairfax's remarks by saying, "That is the worst, most disgusting type of rhetoric he could have invoked. It's entirely appropriate for him to talk about due process and we would intend to offer him every ounce of it, and he's welcome to take advantage of that anytime he would like."
Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Del. Lamon Bagby said Sunday, "I always sort of take a step back when individuals compare lynching or slavery to anything that happens in modern time," the New York Times reported.
Bagby continued, "I will say there are individuals on both sides of the aisle and both chambers that will stand and not allow this to be a political lynching."
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