“We can’t just talk theoretically about what generally happens, but we have a real-world example where I was falsely accused in 2019,” said Fairfax, who is black. “Everyone here on stage called for my immediate resignation, including Terry McAuliffe … He treated me like George Floyd. He treated me like Emmett Till, without due process, he immediately took my guilt.”
CNN has reached out to McAuliffe for comment on Fairfax’s statement.
Fairfax said during the response that “the murder of George Floyd was horrible,” adding that it “recalls a story in Virginia and in our nation where African Americans, particularly African American men, are presumed guilty, treated inhumanely, without due process “.
Fairfax is one of five Democrats vying to be Virginia’s next governor, joining McAuliffe, former Virginia State Jennifer Carroll Foy, Del. Lee Carter and State Senator Jennifer McClellan on stage.
Democratic Governor Ralph Northam cannot run for reelection because the Virginia Constitution prohibits governors from serving two consecutive terms.
Fairfax has repeatedly denied the allegations and called for the allegations to be investigated, saying he was “sure” he would clear his name.
Every Democrats onstage Tuesday, in some way, had asked Fairfax to resign over the allegations in 2019. McClellan was a leader in the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus when the group asked Fairfax to resign, but did not personally issue a statement. But it’s the fact that McAuliffe asked Fairfax to resign so quickly that has long bothered the lieutenant governor.
McClellan was the first candidate to respond to Fairfax on Tuesday, saying: “The murders of Emmett Till and George Floyd were traumatic and triggering for generations of blacks. The lieutenant governor’s comparison was shocking, indecent and insensitive.”
Fairfax spokeswoman Lauren Burke responded to criticism of her comments, saying, “No one addressing these allegations was ever investigated as their opponents continue to push for justice reform and the general treatment of black men.”
Fairfax’s comment on Tuesday came at the end of an otherwise tame debate that focused primarily on fighting the coronavirus, curbing gun violence and renewing criminal justice.
McAuliffe, four years into his time as governor, is attempting to do something few other Virginians have done: serve two terms as governor.
The three other Democrats on stage, in addition to Fairfax, Carter, Foy and McClellan, also sought to criticize McAuliffe in different ways, but most of the debate was much more focused on what each candidate in office would do.
McClellan’s most direct attack on McAuliffe came when he said the former governor “could have gone further” with guns during his four years in office.
Speaking about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected families in Virginia, Foy mentioned his family’s student loan debt and the cost of child care, adding, “We need a governor who understands the challenges Virginia families face. I don’t have to feel empathy, because I understand. “
McAuliffe, like his campaign to date, has largely focused on his own plans.
When Foy attacked him with firearms, the former governor said the bill that passed was bipartisan, noting that McClellan, who was with him, had helped pass it.
McAuliffe repeatedly tried to position himself as the most experienced person for the job, especially in the midst of a crisis like the coronavirus.
The former governor vowed to focus on the pandemic: “First I want to thank Governor Ralph Northam,” he said in his first response to the debate, saying that the Commonwealth will soon have enough doses of vaccines for everyone, including himself. .
“I don’t have it yet; I’m too young,” the 64-year-old former governor said with a smile. “I still don’t fit the category, so I’m still waiting to get my vaccine. But as soon as we advance it, I’ll get it.”