Virginia’s black lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, ignited criticism after appearing to equate calls for him to step down amid accusations of sexual assault to the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Fairfax left many of those following the Virginia Democratic primary debate on Tuesday night scratching their heads after he portrayed himself as the victim of racial discrimination, and compared his situation to those of Floyd and Emmett Till, a teen who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after he was accused of offending a white woman.
Calling the death of Floyd in police custody “horrific,” Fairfax went on to allege systemic racism in American society: “It recalls a history in Virginia and in our nation, where African Americans, and particularly African-American men are presumed to be guilty, are treated inhumanely, are given no due process, and have their lives impacted and in some cases taken away in an instant.”
Fairfax then cited himself as an example of such treatment, invoking previous sexual assault allegations against him. In February 2019, two women came forward alleging that Fairfax sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s. Vanessa C. Tyson accused Fairfax of assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, while Meredith Watson claimed that Fairfax raped her in 2000. The politician vehemently denied all the allegations, arguing it was a plot by political opponents to force him out of office. At the time, an array of Democratic leaders called on Fairfax to step down, among them former governor and leading gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
“Everyone on this stage was calling for my immediate resignation, including Terry McAuliffe three minutes after the press release came out. He treated me like George Floyd. He treated me like Emmett Till. No due process, immediately assumed my guilt,” Fairfax charged during the Tuesday debate.
However, the parallel did not go down well with prospective voters and online pundits, who wasted no time in reminding Fairfax that he is still alive as opposed to Floyd and Till.
Others pointed out that the sexual assault claims came from black women.
This is a horrendous thing to say for so many reasons but it is also ignoring that it was a Black woman who accused Fairfax. The fact he is saying that on a debate stage proves he is not like George Floyd. https://t.co/FvkwU03gBI
— Eric Michael Garcia (@EricMGarcia) April 7, 2021
Justin Fairfax isn’t getting treated like George Floyd or Emmett Till, he’s getting treated like R. Kelly. Get this man off the stage
— Wes (@wgobar) April 6, 2021
“You don’t see spin of this quality every day folks!” Republican operative Tres Watson tweeted.
Wow. This is impressive. VA LtGov Justin Fairfax compares his being accused of multiple acts of sexual assault/harassment to the death of George Floyd. You don’t see spin of this quality every day folks! https://t.co/7wTrCsdiYL
— Tres Watson (@treswatson) April 7, 2021
Political scientist and Biden supporter Miranda Yaver suggested that Fairfax, on the contrary, was given massive slack.
“The fact that Justin Fairfax is still Lt. Governor of Virginia and was speaking on a debate stage in his bid to become Governor of Virginia shows that he’s had it a helluva lot easier than did George Floyd or Emmett Till,” she tweeted.
The fact that Justin Fairfax is still Lt. Governor of Virginia and was speaking on a debate stage in his bid to become Governor of Virginia shows that he’s had it a helluva lot easier than did George Floyd or Emmett Till. (It’s insane that this even needs to be said.) https://t.co/DGeWanIhNb
— Miranda Yaver, PhD (@mirandayaver) April 7, 2021
“What an incredibly silly thing to say,” one Fairfax supporter said.
Another commenter described Fairfax’s comparison as absolutely false, calling him out for “daring” to utter it.