Commentary

Bill Donohue: Rush to Judgment on Fairfax Is Unjust

Bill Donohue
By Bill Donohue | February 12, 2019 | 3:26 PM EST

RICHMOND, VA - FEBRUARY 08: (L-R) Tara Perkinson, chief deputy clerk of the Virginia State Senate, speaks with Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax on the Senate floor at the Virginia State Capitol, February 8, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. Virginia state politics are in a state of upheaval, with Governor Ralph Northam and State Attorney General Mark Herring both admitting to past uses of blackface and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax accused of sexual misconduct. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In all likelihood, future generations will look back at this time in American history as one where fundamental due process rights for men accused of sexual crimes were jettisoned. From false accusations made against Catholic priests, to the wholly unfounded accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh, we have seen a mad rush to judgment, indicting the accused.

The latest to be subjected to this travesty of justice is Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. First a woman accuses him of sexually abusing her in July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention. Then another woman emerges, claiming she was abused in 2000 when she and Fairfax were students at Duke University. This same woman now says she was raped by a Duke basketball player while in school.

Fairfax and the athlete, Corey Maggette, vehemently deny the charges.

Fairfax's first accuser, Vanessa Tyson, says she does not want to press charges, and the second one, Meredith Watson, came forward “out of a strong sense of civic duty.”

Neither woman has taken their accusations to the courts. Why not? Why are they content to try Fairfax in the court of public opinion? Is it because the current hostile environment for males accused of sexual crimes favors the accusers? College men can speak to this issue with authority.

There has been no evidence that Fairfax is guilty of sexual abuse. Yet presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris managed somehow to determine that the first accusation was “credible.” Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has no evidence either, but he is satisfied calling for Fairfax to resign. Ditto for Sen. Tim Kaine—he called on Fairfax to resign over “atrocious crimes,” even though the Lt. Gov. has not been convicted of anything.

BET co-founder Robert Johnson has put up $150,000 to hire a law firm, to be selected by all three parties to this dispute, to investigate this matter. Both accusers said no. What does that tell us?

Sexual abuse is a serious crime and those guilty of it should be treated harshly. But unsubstantiated accusations should never be treated as dispositive, and this is doubly true of those who refuse to access the courts to settle these matters.

Bill Donohue is President and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of seven books and many articles.

In all likelihood, future generations will look back at this time in American history as one where fundamental due process rights for men accused of sexual crimes were jettisoned. From false accusations made against Catholic priests, to the wholly unfounded accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh, we have seen a mad rush to judgment, indicting the accused.

The latest to be subjected to this travesty of justice is Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. First a woman accuses him of sexually abusing her in July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention. Then another woman emerges, claiming she was abused in 2000 when she and Fairfax were students at Duke University. This same woman now says she was raped by a Duke basketball player while in school.

Fairfax and the athlete, Corey Maggette, vehemently deny the charges.

Fairfax's first accuser, Vanessa Tyson, says she does not want to press charges, and the second one, Meredith Watson, came forward “out of a strong sense of civic duty.”

Neither woman has taken their accusations to the courts. Why not? Why are they content to try Fairfax in the court of public opinion? Is it because the current hostile environment for males accused of sexual crimes favors the accusers? College men can speak to this issue with authority.

There has been no evidence that Fairfax is guilty of sexual abuse. Yet presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris managed somehow to determine that the first accusation was “credible.” Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has no evidence either, but he is satisfied calling for Fairfax to resign. Ditto for Sen. Tim Kaine—he called on Fairfax to resign over “atrocious crimes,” even though the Lt. Gov. has not been convicted of anything.

BET co-founder Robert Johnson has put up $150,000 to hire a law firm, to be selected by all three parties to this dispute, to investigate this matter. Both accusers said no. What does that tell us?

Sexual abuse is a serious crime and those guilty of it should be treated harshly. But unsubstantiated accusations should never be treated as dispositive, and this is doubly true of those who refuse to access the courts to settle these matters.

Bill Donohue is President and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of seven books and many articles.

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