Lt. Gov. Fairfax appeals dismissal of defamation suit over CBS interviews on sexual assault allegations

Virginia News

FILE – In this Tuesday July 9, 2019 file photo, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax welcomes visitors at the start of the special session on gun issues at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va. A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments Friday, Dec. 6, 2019 over whether he should toss out a libel lawsuit filed by Virginia’s lieutenant governor. Justin Fairfax sued CBS in federal court in Alexandria after it aired interviews with two women who have accused him of sexual assault.(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) filed an appeal Monday in a defamation suit against CBS that had sought $400 million from the network following interviews the network aired with two women accusing him of sexual assault.

Fairfax filed a federal lawsuit in September 2019 claiming that CBS “promoted false statements” by airing the interviews with Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, the two women accusing the lieutenant governor of sexual assault.

“This defamation suit arises from intentionally fabricated, false, and politically- motivated statements made by Meredith Watson (“Watson”) and Vanessa Tyson (“Tyson”) alleging that they were sexually assaulted by Justin Fairfax,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit was eventually tossed out by a federal judge in February, prompting Fairfax to say he would appeal the dismissal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, which he did on Monday.

“The district court erroneously turned a motion to dismiss defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims into a quasi-bench trial where its only ‘evidence’ was the complaint, the allegedly defamatory statements, and improperly-filed exhibits to the defendants’ motion to dismiss,” Fairfax’s appeal claims. “To grant defendant CBS’s motion, the court (1) drew its own inferences regarding the meaning of CBS personnel’s thinly-veiled endorsements of the false statements CBS aired, (2) failed to even address the defamatory meaning of publishing the accusers’ false statements, and (3) found its own facts that had no support in the complaint.”

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