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Justin Fairfax accuser says she was also raped by Duke men's basketball player

On Friday, Duke alumna Meredith Watson became the second woman to accuse Justin Fairfax, lieutenant governor of Virginia and Trinity '00, of sexually assaulting her. 

Watson, Trinity '01, claimed Fairfax raped her when they were undergraduate students. Fairfax denied the allegation. A follow-up statement from Watson's legal representative released Friday pushed back on Fairfax's denial and claimed that Watson had been raped before the alleged assault by Fairfax.

The statement said that the alleged previous rape had occurred during her sophomore year by an unnamed Duke men's basketball player, and that Watson had told Fairfax about it. 

"Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke. She went to the Dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further," the statement said. "Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax."

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email Saturday that Duke learned of the allegations Friday night as they became public.

"The university is looking into the matter and will have no further comment at this time," Schoenfeld wrote. 

After men's basketball's win against Virginia Saturday, the team released the following statement from athletic director Kevin White:

"Duke first learned of the allegations involving a student-athlete [Friday] when they were reported by the media. Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski confirms he had no knowledge of the alleged conduct from 1999. The university is looking into the matter and will have no further comment at this time."

Krzyzewski also commented on the matter after the victory.

"I'm not sure that it's true or not, but there's an allegation. I didn't find out about it until late last night, and I have no knowledge about it," Krzyzewski said in the postgame press conference. "That is hugely important. Our University will take care of whatever actions and give whatever information that's needed to be done. Our AD has put out a statement that we'll give to you, but something like that is serious. Our school looks at it that way and we'll do whatever we can to make sure that we answer whatever questions are posed to us."

When asked Saturday night which basketball player Watson was referencing, Erin Friedlander of Evergreen Partners—the group issuing the statement on behalf of Watson—said the firm was "only providing the information contained in our statements at this time."

Fairfax has denied both of the allegations against him, calling Watson's claim "demonstrably false." The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and multiple Democratic presidential candidates have called on him to resign.

Fairfax claimed that he had a consensual encounter with the first woman to accuse him—Vanessa Tyson, now a fellow at Stanford—who said he forced her to perform oral sex on him while they were working at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. 

The allegations come as Virginia's state politics continue to swirl, after Gov. Ralph Northam admitted to and then denied being in a photo showing a person in a Ku Klux Klan outfit and a person in blackface that was on his page in his medical school yearbook. 

Fairfax has demanded an investigation and denied the accusation. 

“I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” he said, according to the New York Times. “Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”

Watson's first statement outlined her accusation, saying that the details were similar to Tyson's and that she was friends with Fairfax as an undergraduate.

“At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character,” the first statement said.

At Duke, Fairfax was a Reginaldo Howard Scholar and a Young Trustee. 

On Friday, the University announced it was asking Fairfax to step down from the Sanford School of Public Policy's Board of Visitors pending the resolution of the allegations.

"I am writing to let you know that Justin Fairfax will be asked to step down from the Sanford School Board of Visitors pending the resolution of the serious and deeply distressing allegations that have been made against him," wrote Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School, in an email to the Sanford community Friday night. "Sexual assault is abhorrent and unfortunately can occur right around us. I urge everyone to take survivors of sexual assault seriously, and to help build an environment that is safe and supportive for everyone."

Hank Tucker contributed reporting.

This is a developing story. Updates will be added as they become available.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include the comment from Friedlander and statements from  White and Krzyzewski.

Bre Bradham

Bre is a senior political science major from South Carolina, and she is the current video editor, special projects editor and recruitment chair for The Chronicle. She is also an associate photography editor and an investigations editor. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief and local and national news department head. 

Twitter: @brebradham


Michael Model

Digital Strategy Director for Vol. 115, Michael was previously Sports Editor for Vol. 114 and Assistant Blue Zone Editor for Vol. 113.  Michael is a senior majoring in Statistical Science and is interested in data analytics and using data to make insights.


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