Tuesday, February 05, 2019


The website Big League Politics -- described by The Wall Street Journal as a "pro-Trump outlet" that's "backed by GOP operatives" -- was the first to report on claims that Virginia's lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, sexually assaulted a woman at the 2004 Democratic convention. NPR now reports that the woman -- identified by Big League Politics and other news outlets as Vanessa Tyson, now a research fellow at Stanford University -- has retained high-profile legal counsel.
A California woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her 15 years ago has hired the same law firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford in her allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh....

The woman making the accusation against Fairfax has retained Katz, Marshall and Banks, a Washington, D.C.-based firm, and is consulting with her attorneys about next steps, according to a source close to the legal team.
It's curious to me that right-wingers are uncritically reporting these allegations, and that they're not immediately attacking Tyson for hiring this firm, given the nasty attacks they launched when it was first revealed that the firm represented Blasey Ford.

Back in September, when Debra Katz of Katz, Marshall and Banks was identified as Blasey Ford's lawyer, there were headlines in the right-wing press such as this one at Townhall:
The Legal Advisor for Kavanaugh’s Accuser Is a Big Time Democratic Donor, Thinks People Who Work for Trump Are 'Miscreants'
The narrative on the right was that the lawyers were hardcore Democratic operatives. It was deemed suspicious when Blasey Ford said that Dianne Feinstein recommended Katz to her. Also when it was learned that Katz and her partner Lisa Banks were scheduled to hold a fund-raiser for Democratic senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, until they backed out after the media reported on the event. Also when it was discovered that Julie Swetnick, a Kavanaugh accuser brought forth by Michael Avenatti, had once hired Katz to represent her after she'd made a sexual harassment claim.

TMZ would go on to publish a photograph of a woman who seemed to resemble Katz walking with Hillary Clinton, which led to wild speculation on the right:

(Snopes reported that the woman in the photo was actually Barbara Kinney, Clinton's official campaign photographer.)

But now an accuser who might take down a Democrat has hired Katz's firm, and the right's response is: "Debra Katz? Whatever."

If Tyson herself weren't useful to the right, she's just the kind of person who'd be the subject of conservative attacks. As Heavy.com notes, Tyson has "described herself as 'affiliated with the California Democratic Party'" and has said that she's "worked on Democratic campaigns in Southern California 'since I was 12 years old.'" She's using her Stanford fellowship "to research the politics and policies surrounding sexual violence against women and children in the United States" and "explore political discourse surrounding sexual assault, corresponding policies, and the unique identities of sexual assault survivors." Tyson is a professor of political science at Scripps College and is described by the Women's Media Center as an “expert on US Congress, policy formulation, race, gender, and social justice.” Also:
Her book, Twists of Fate: Multiracial Coalitions and Minority Representation in the US House of Representatives, published by the Oxford University Press, explores “structural inequality in the United States, and how members of Congress have formed multiracial coalitions as a strategy to provide for their diverse constituencies.”

Author Tyson is described as “a scholar of policy formulation, race, gender, and social justice ...”
If Tyson were accusing a Republican politician, she'd be vilified by the right as a Democratic plant, and as that worst of all modern archetypes -- a "social justice warrior."

Tyson mentioned the assault in a private social media post that was reportedly shared with her permission by a friend in Virginia named Adria Scharf:

If Scharf were helping an accuser of a Republican, she'd also be dismissed as an SJW. She's the executive director of the Richmond Peace Education Center, a group that tries to reduce urban violence through "workshops, public events, youth programs, and conflict resolution training." The workshop include this one next month:

Scharf has also visited the West Bank and expressed her dismay at the plight of the Palestinians:
My own family faced persecution, ethnic hate and forced displacement as Jews in Europe. I understand personally the historical roots of Jewish trauma. But that history does not excuse what I saw taking place in the Palestinian territory. Real hope for peace requires a basic respect for human rights. It requires a fair distribution of land, resources and opportunity. Land theft and occupation only worsens the cycle of violence.
If she were helping to bring down a Republican rather than a Democrat, she'd be hated on the right.


I don't know whether Justin Fairfax is innocent or guilty of these charges. Knowing little about him, I was initially pleased at the prospect that he might become Virginia's next governor. But after Al Franken and (especially) Eric Schneiderman, I assume it's possible that any man in politics, even one I admire greatly, could be as a sexual predator.

I take these charges seriously in part because the women involved aren't right-wing operatives -- far from it. I also know that false sexual assault claims are very rare. Vanessa Tyson has much more to lose than to gain by going public.

But the people pushing this story are people who'd be trying to destroy the reputations of Tyson, her friend, and her lawyer if the accused man was a Republican. The right's distaste for Democrats and liberals is clearly situational.

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