Former Gov. Doug Wilder said Friday that claims of sexual harassment against him are untrue, days after an investigation conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that he kissed a 20-year-old student without her consent.
He made the comments in a tweet, breaking his public silence on the matter for the first time since the start of the investigation five months ago.
“I want to thank the many people who have shared their continuous support and belief in me. I have made NO comments about the baseless allegations against me which have been proven to be untrue. Your faith in me is justified; the truth will out. STAY TUNED!” Wilder tweeted.
Wilder was found responsible for nonconsensual sexual conduct but cleared of three other allegations made by the woman: sexual exploitation, sex- or gender-based discrimination, and retaliation, according to a two-page summary of the investigation’s findings.
VCU, where Wilder is a distinguished professor, hired an outside attorney-investigator with expertise in federal civil rights law to conduct the investigation.
The student, Sydney Black, filed a formal complaint with VCU in December 2018, withdrew from classes and is planning to continue her studies elsewhere.
Black, who is now 22, has said Wilder, 88, kissed her and made other overtures, including suggestions that she could live at his country house and accompany him on foreign travel. He also offered to pay for law school, she said.
Wilder, a Richmond native and Democrat, served as the nation’s first elected African American governor from 1990 to 1994.
He has until July 16 to contest the finding that he is responsible for nonconsensual sexual contact, which would trigger a hearing by VCU’s review panel to determine if the investigation was conducted properly.
If he accepts the findings, both sides would have to agree to a sanction. The review panel would step in if both sides cannot agree on a sanction, which could range from counseling to demotion, suspension and termination of employment, according to the policy.
VCU renewed Wilder’s annual employment contract May 31, more than three months after the start of the investigation.
He is paid $150,000 annually to teach up to 24 credit hours, according to the latest copy of the contract, which expires June 30, 2020.
VCU said in a statement Friday that it cannot comment on university investigations because of the need to protect privacy. The statement added:
“Sexual misconduct in any form is harmful to the well-being of our community members and will not be tolerated. VCU takes seriously any allegations of misconduct and all parties’ rights to a fair and impartial process that provides a full opportunity to be heard. VCU policy contemplates both an investigation and an opportunity for parties to contest the findings of an investigation before the process is complete. As our policy states, VCU takes prompt action, if appropriate, when the entire process for any complaint has concluded.”