Politics & Government

Justin Fairfax’s accuser says she also was raped by a basketball player at Duke

The woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her while they were Duke University students 20 years ago also says a Duke basketball player raped her.

Meredith Watson’s lawyer released a statement on Friday night claiming Watson was also raped by a basketball player and, when she reported the attack to a school administrator, received no assistance.

The statement did not give the name of the player nor the name of the school administrator, and a spokesperson for Watson’s attorney declined to provide them.

Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, wrote in the statement, “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. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax.”

A Duke yearbook lists a Meredith Watson in the class of 2001.

In an email to The News & Observer on Saturday, Duke vice president for public affairs Michael Schoenfeld said that “we first learned of these allegations last night. The university is looking into the matter and will have no further comment at this time.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Saturday night he had no knowledge of such an event. The school released a statement from athletics director Kevin White Saturday night echoing that comment.

“Duke first learned of the allegations involving a student-athlete last night when they were reported by the media,” White said, referencing a USA Today report Friday night. “Coach Krzyzewski confirms that 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.”

After Duke beat Virginia, 81-71, Krzyzewski said during his post-game comments he takes the situation seriously.

“There’s an allegation,” Krzyzewski said. “I didn’t find out about it until late last night and I have no knowledge about it. That is hugely important. Our university will take care of whatever actions and give whatever information that’s needed to be done. Something like that is serious. Our school looks at it that way. We’ll do whatever we can to answer whatever questions are posed to us.”

Fairfax denied Watson’s allegation of rape in a statement Friday. But he faces calls from many fellow Democrats to resign after Watson’s accusation followed one by Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson, who accused Fairfax of assaulting her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, as the Washington Post and others reported.

On Saturday, Fairfax called for an investigation by the FBI and other authorities, and for due process.

“I say again without reservation: I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else,” Fairfax said in a statement sent to the N&O and other news outlets. “Our American values don’t just work when it’s convenient — they must be applied at the most difficult of times.”

The statement from Watson’s attorney said Fairfax used knowledge of Watson’s prior rape to plan his own attack on her in 2000. According to the attorney’s statement, Fairfax told Watson: “I knew that because of what happened to you last year, you’d be too afraid to say anything” about the alleged attack by Fairfax.

Fairfax said in his statement that both “interactions were consensual.”

“Regarding Ms. Watson, I knew Ms. Watson in college both before and after the encounter, and she never said to me that our interaction was not consensual or caused her any discomfort,” he wrote.

Do you have a news tip? Here’s how to send information to The News & Observer securely.

The Sanford School of Public Policy’s Visitors Board at Duke University is asking Fairfax to step down from his role as a member of the board, according to the Duke Chronicle. Fairfax served on the board from 2008 to 2014 and returned in 2015.

Virginia is already reeling from a political scandal since a photo of someone in blackface surfaced on Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page. Northam has denied that he is in the photo.

If Northam steps down, Fairfax is next to line to become governor.

If both Fairfax and Northam resign, Attorney General Mark Herring would become governor. Herring has also admitted to wearing blackface in college.

Republican Kirk Cox, speaker of the Virginia House, would become governor if all three resign.

Staff writers Rashaan Ayesh and Jordan Schrader contributed.
Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.