Self-styled champion of women’s rights Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, found himself embroiled Monday in the latest #MeToo moment — and it cost him his job.
Schneiderman resigned late Monday after The New Yorker published explosive allegations that he physically assaulted four women with whom he had had relationships. Two of those women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, talked on the record to the magazine.
“After I found out that other women had been abused by Attorney General Schneiderman in a similar manner many years before me, I wondered, who’s next, and knew something needed to be done,” Selvaratnam said in a statement released after The New Yorker published its piece.
“So I chose to come forward both to protect women who might enter into a relationship with him in the future but also to raise awareness around the issue of intimate partner violence,” Selvaratnam said.
In a statement he released on Twitter after his resignation, Schneiderman admitted to “role-playing” games but denied anything improper.
“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” he stated. “I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
Schneiderman has been one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal critics and had joined several legal challenges against the president’s policies. He also filed a 2013 lawsuit accusing Trump University of fraud.
In public, Schneiderman has taken a strong stand against sexual harassment and abuse. He sued the production company of film mogul Harvey Weinstein, accusing the firm of violating civil rights laws and gender discrimination after allegations against him became public.
Schneiderman also announced he would review the decision by Manhattan’s district attorney not to prosecute Weinstein after an Italian model accused him of groping her.
Last November, Schneiderman tweeted a news story about the Brooklyn Health Center’s billing of sexual harassment victims for rape kits that were supposed to be free. He added the comment, “Survivors of sexual assault need to be supported and empowered at every level. Period.”
Last month, Schneiderman tweeted congratulations to The New York Times and The New Yorker for the Pulitzer Prize they shared for their reporting on Weinstein and other accused harassers: “Without the reporting of the @nytimes and the @newyorker — and the brave women and men who spoke up about the sexual harassment they endured at the hands of powerful men — there would not be the critical national reckoning underway. A well-deserved honor.”
Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone – next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2013
That brought tweets of derision from the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. He tweeted: “Self awareness level: 0 Or substantially less than that.”
The president himself insinuated in September 2013 that Schneiderman would follow former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to ignominy following their own scandals involving sexual impropriety.
“Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone — next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner,” Trump tweeted.
The super PAC America Rising seized on the story, blasting out a roundup of national Democrats who have ties to the New York attorney general.
Barish told The New Yorker that Schneiderman slapped her after they both had been drinking.
The allegations come as Schneiderman was gearing up for what figured to be a ho-hum re-election bid.
“It was horrendous. It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing,” she said. “I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed. I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fiber, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”
Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, told The New Yorker that Schneiderman was “obsessed” with having a threesome and recalled, “Sometimes, he’d tell me to call him Master, and he’d slap me until I did.” She added that Schneiderman called her his “brown slave” and demanded she repeat that she was “his property.”
The allegations come as Schneiderman was gearing up for what figured to be a ho-hum re-election bid. Daniel Nichanian, a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Chicago who tweets under the name Taniel, pointed out that potential candidates have only until mid-July to launch bids for the office.
“Even if Schneiderman were to not resign or retire after this horrifying report, candidates have until mid-July to jump in & challenge him,” he tweeted. “@ballotpedia currently lists no one running for Attorney General other than Schneiderman, but a GOP lawyer had announced run earlier today.”