Virginia’s Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has filed a lawsuit against CBS for $400 million, alleging the network sought to exploit false allegations of sexual misconduct to repair its public image and boost its bottom line.
The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia on September 12, stems from two separate interviews conducted by This Morning host Gayle King with Meredith Watson and Dr. Vanessa Tyson, two women who he says falsely accused him of sexual assault.
Fairfax’s complaint describes how King promoted both women’s stories to a nationwide audience of millions on CBS This Morning, airing on April 1 and 2. The complaint further alleges that CBS This Morning hosts asserted on-air as fact circumstances about which they had no knowledge and had done no independent investigation.
Fairfax’s document said he filed the lawsuit so that he can fight in a court of law the allegations of sexual assault made by Watson and Tyler, with the protections of due process, and on a level playing field.
The complaint describes how Meredith Watson told a “brazen and fabricated” story of a college rape and sexual assault that never occurred. It also alleges how Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s allegation of sexual assault based on a 15-year-old completely consensual encounter is “false, uncorroborated, and politically-motivated.”
Both allegations by the women were made public at the precise moment that Fairfax appeared poised to become the only African-American Governor in the United States of America.
Both Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring were facing public calls to resign after it became known they had worn Blackface as college students in the 1980s. Fairfax was in line to ascend to the top job if Northam resigned.
The complaint also alleges that an attorney in CBS’s legal department had information prior to the airing of King’s interview that demonstrated the false nature of Meredith Watson’s allegation. Watson did not acknowledge, and King did not ask on-air about, the fact that there is an eyewitness to the 19-year-old encounter who has completely contradicted Watson’s version of what occurred.
Likewise, the complaint alleges that CBS failed to adequately investigate the validity of Tyson’s allegation and deliberately chose not to do so before rushing her story to the airwaves.
“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,” the Fairfax document says.
It notes that the Lieutenant Governor had made numerous unsuccessful direct requests to CBS to update, correct or retract the false stories it hyped repeatedly, broadcast, and kept in circulation via its website and social media presence.
“CBS’s failure to do so, and its failure to acknowledge its role in spreading scurrilous false information, has led to today’s lawsuit,” the document notes.
“CBS had, and has, a significant civic responsibility not to publish false and uncorroborated stories, particularly ones that do severe damage to people’s lives and reputations, their family’s life, and to the public’s trust in media reporting. No one should have their reputation and years of hard work destroyed because of false and unsubstantiated claims.”
Fairfax’s document says he trusts that the court system will provide him the due process and fundamental fairness that CBS, and many others, have denied him.
CBS said it is standing behind its action.