Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) accused fellow gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) of treating him “like George Floyd and Emmett Till” when the former governor called on Fairfax to resign after sexual assault allegations against him surfaced in 2019.
Fairfax made the charge during a gubernatorial debate on Tuesday night while standing alongside McAuliffe and several other Democratic candidates.
“Everyone on that stage called for my immediate resignation, including Terry McAuliffe three minutes after a press release came out,” Fairfax said at the debate, which was hosted by CBS 6. “He treated me like George Floyd. He treated me like Emmett Till. No due process. Immediately assumed my guilt.”
McAuliffe and his campaign did not respond to the comment.
Fairfax’s remark came in response to a question about policing and Floyd, who died in police custody last year after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin is currently on trial for murder and manslaughter charges.
Till was a Black 14-year-old who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after he was accused of offending a white woman.
Critics were quick to point out on social media that Fairfax, unlike Floyd and Till, is alive.
Fairfax was accused of rape and assault in 2019. Meredith Watson, a former Duke University classmate, said Fairfax raped her in 2000. Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps College, said Fairfax assaulted her in a hotel room at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
The lieutenant governor has vehemently denied both allegations and has compared them to false rape allegations by white women that led to the lynching of Black men, despite both of his accusers being Black.
Tuesday’s debate marked the first televised debate in the commonwealth’s Democratic primary. All five candidates including McAuliffe, Fairfax, former Virginia Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D), state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) and Del. Lee Carter (D) were in attendance for the event at Virginia State University.
McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s governor from 2014 to 2018 — including a stint as chair of the National Governors Association — is considered the frontrunner in the race. He fielded attacks in the second half of the debate on Tuesday from Fairfax, as well as McClellan and Foy.
The gubernatorial primary is set to take place on June 8. Early voting kicks off on April 23.