Virginia’s Democratic lieutenant governor is targeting CBS News with a $400 million lawsuit alleging defamation.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax filed the federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia on Thursday, accusing the network of trying to boost its own image by interviewing two women alleging he sexually assaulted them, according to WWBT.
The network’s interviews with Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson were aired back in April and the Democrat lawmaker is contending in the lawsuit that CBS News ignored information “indicating that both allegations had not been corroborated by any independent investigation.”
“Yes, CBS recklessly disregarded whether what Watson and Tyson were saying was, in fact, true,” the complaint stated, alleging that the interviews with CBS’ Gayle King caused Fairfax emotional distress as he has maintained the encounters with the women were consensual.
Tyson, a college professor, claimed Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in a Boston hotel room in 2004 while Watson accused him of raping her when they attended Duke University as students in 2000.
The allegations came to light earlier this year amid a political firestorm in Virginia, with Fairfax next in line to replace Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam who was being urged to step down over a racist photo from his old medical school yearbook.
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“This defamation suit arises from intentionally fabricated, false, and politically motivated statements made by Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson alleging that they were sexually assaulted by Justin Fairfax,” the lawsuit read. “CBS published, promoted, and amplified these false statements during separate interviews with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King broadcast by CBS to a national audience on April 1 and April 2.”
“Fairfax brings this action to restore his reputation and clear his name, ensure the truth prevails, stop the weaponization of false allegations of sexual assault against him, and vindicate his rights under civil law,” the lawsuit said. “CBS must be held accountable for its reckless disregard for the truth, knowing failure to follow even rudimentary journalistic standards, and its failure to follow up on leads that would demonstrate the allegations to be false.”
While Fairfax remained in office after the accusations came to light and following the interviews, the lawsuit claimed his career was “severely harmed.”
“Most importantly, Fairfax has been falsely branded a ‘rapist,’ ‘predator’ and ‘sexual abuser,’” the suit alleged. “His once-promising career and political prospects have been severely harmed by the reckless airing of these false allegations.”
CBS News denied the former federal prosecutor’s allegations.
“We stand by our reporting and we will vigorously defend this lawsuit,” the network said in a statement Wednesday.
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