Former Virginia lieutenant governor sues New York Public Radio for defamation

Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax filed a libel suit Saturday against New York Public Radio over an episode of Takeaway meals who discussed sexual assault allegations made against him by two accusers.

In the lawsuit, Fairfax alleges the show presented as facts “intentionally fabricated” statements made by Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson, who in 2019 went public with accusations that Fairfax assaulted them in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Fairfax, a Democrat who served as lieutenant governor from 2018 until earlier this year, denied the charges and called them politically motivated.

The Complaint of the Former Lieutenant Governor focuses on an episode of Takeaway meals airing August 6, 2021 and featuring Tyson as a guest. Melissa Harris-Perry, now the show’s host, then served as acting host. Fairfax’s complaint alleges that NYPR and Harris-Perry did not ask “any investigative questions of Watson or Tyson…to probe the veracity of their statements and accusations against Fairfax or to test their credibility.”

Although the show noted that Fairfax denied the allegations, it “did virtually nothing to remove the sting from the long recitation of the false accusations,” reads the complaint, which was filed in court. US District of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The complaint alleges defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Fairfax is seeking compensatory damages of at least $35 million, as well as punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and “an injunction restraining defendants from broadcasting, distributing, or publishing any footage or statement found to be defamatory by the court.” justice”. The complaint requires a jury trial.

A spokesperson for NYPR told Current that Fairfax’s complaint “is completely without merit.”

In explaining why NYPR is subject to the jurisdiction of a Virginia court, the complaint said the station “is engaged in providing goods or services in Virginia, has four affiliated television stations in Virginia, and generates revenue of his activity in Virginia”. NYPR does not have four affiliated television stations in the state.

Fairfax also sued CBS for defamation after the network aired interviews with its accusers in 2019. Last year, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss that lawsuit, finding that Fairfax failed to meet the standard for a defamation claim involving a public official.

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