Four women have accused New York’s Attorney General of physical abuse causing him to resign from office.
“While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time,” a statement issued by Eric Schneiderman read. “I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”
Schneiderman had become one of the most powerful political figures in New York, his profile beginning to take on national importance, as he had also become a rising star in Democratic politics.
He had also become of the loudest advocates of the #MeToo movement, the national movement against sexual harassment. Schneiderman even used his authority to take legal action against former head of Miramax Movie Studios, Harvey Weinstein, who stands accused of sexual abuse, harassment and rape by a dozens of women, including Hollywood stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.
Schneiderman filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Weinstein Company and Weinstein himself, along with other company executives, including Weinstein’s brother Bob, accusing them of knowing for years of the allegations but failing to act on them.
One of the women accusing Schneiderman of abuse, Michelle Manning Barish, said Schneiderman repeatedly hit her during their relationship and threatened to kill her. “If you ever left me, I’d kill you,” he reportedly said.
He “would almost always drink two bottles of wine in a night, then bring a bottle of Scotch into the bedroom. He would get absolutely plastered five nights out of seven,” Manning Barish said.
Another woman, Tanya Selvaratnam, said Schneiderman was abusive while they were intimate. He made her “call him Master, and he’d slap me until I did.”
“[H]e started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property,'” Selvaratnam told The New Yorker, which first reported the allegations.
Two other women also came forward with allegations of abuse but asked not to be identified.
In light of the allegations, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called on Schneiderman to resign. “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” said Cuomo, adding that an “immediate investigation” would “proceed as the facts merit.”
New York’s junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, a leading voice in the #MeToo movement, had also called on Schneiderman to resign: “The violent actions described by multiple women in this story are abhorrent. Based on this extensive and serious reporting, I do not believe that Eric Schneiderman should continue to serve as Attorney General. There should be a full and immediate investigation into these credible allegations.”
Despite handing in his resignation, Schneiderman maintains his actions were consensual. “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross,” he said in a statement.
Schneiderman once congratulated The New Yorker as well as The New York Times for a joint Pulitzer Prize the outlets received for their coverage of sexual harassment. Schneiderman lauded “the brave women and men who spoke up about the sexual harassment they had endured at the hands of powerful men.”
Without these women, “there would not be the critical national reckoning under way,” he tweeted.
Photo by U.S. Department of Justice