NY AG Eric Schneiderman Resigns After Sexual Assault Claims
The prosecutor who came to national prominence jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon has now been run over by it.
The New Yorker broke the story “Four Women Accuse New York’s Attorney General of Physical Abuse” yesterday evening; he resigned three hours later.
Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, has long been a liberal Democratic champion of women’s rights, and recently he has become an outspoken figure in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. As New York State’s highest-ranking law-enforcement officer, Schneiderman, who is sixty-three, has used his authority to take legal action against the disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, and to demand greater compensation for the victims of Weinstein’s alleged sexual crimes. Last month, when the Times and this magazine were awarded a joint Pulitzer Prize for coverage of sexual harassment, Schneiderman issued a congratulatory tweet, praising “the brave women and men who spoke up about the sexual harassment they had endured at the hands of powerful men.” Without these women, he noted, “there would not be the critical national reckoning under way.”
Now Schneiderman is facing a reckoning of his own. As his prominence as a voice against sexual misconduct has risen, so, too, has the distress of four women with whom he has had romantic relationships or encounters. They accuse Schneiderman of having subjected them to nonconsensual physical violence. All have been reluctant to speak out, fearing reprisal. But two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have talked to The New Yorker on the record, because they feel that doing so could protect other women. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent. Manning Barish and Selvaratnam categorize the abuse he inflicted on them as “assault.” They did not report their allegations to the police at the time, but both say that they eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face, and also choked. Selvaratnam says that Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped, and both say that he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. (Schneiderman’s spokesperson said that he “never made any of these threats.”)
A third former romantic partner of Schneiderman’s told Manning Barish and Selvaratnam that he also repeatedly subjected her to nonconsensual physical violence, but she told them that she is too frightened of him to come forward. (The New Yorker has independently vetted the accounts that they gave of her allegations.) A fourth woman, an attorney who has held prominent positions in the New York legal community, says that Schneiderman made an advance toward her; when she rebuffed him, he slapped her across the face with such force that it left a mark that lingered the next day. She recalls screaming in surprise and pain, and beginning to cry, and says that she felt frightened. She has asked to remain unidentified, but shared a photograph of the injury with The New Yorker.
In a statement, Schneiderman said, “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 nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
Manning Barish was romantically involved with Schneiderman from the summer of 2013 until New Year’s Day in 2015. Selvaratnam was with him from the summer of 2016 until the fall of 2017. Both are articulate, progressive Democratic feminists in their forties who live in Manhattan. They work and socialize in different circles, and although they have become aware of each other’s stories, they have only a few overlapping acquaintances; to this day, they have never spoken to each other. Over the past year, both watched with admiration as other women spoke out about sexual misconduct. But, as Schneiderman used the authority of his office to assume a major role in the #MeToo movement, their anguish and anger grew.
In February, four months after the first stories about Weinstein broke, Schneiderman announced that his office was filing a civil-rights suit against him. At a press conference, he denounced Weinstein, saying, “We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here.” On May 2nd, at the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Schneiderman launched an investigation into the past handling of criminal complaints against Weinstein by the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., and the New York City Police Department. (In 2015, Vance declined to bring criminal charges against Weinstein, saying that he lacked sufficient evidence—a decision criticized by activist groups.) In a speech, Cuomo explained that “sexual-assault complaints must be pursued aggressively, and to the fullest extent of the law.” The expanding investigation of the Weinstein case puts Schneiderman at the center of one of the most significant sexual-misconduct cases in recent history.
Schneiderman’s activism on behalf of feminist causes has increasingly won him praise from women’s groups. On May 1st, the New York-based National Institute for Reproductive Health honored him as one of three “Champions of Choice” at its annual fund-raising luncheon. Accepting the award, Schneiderman said, “If a woman cannot control her body, she is not truly equal.” But, as Manning Barish sees it, “you cannot be a champion of women when you are hitting them and choking them in bed, and saying to them, ‘You’re a fucking whore.’ ” She says of Schneiderman’s involvement in the Weinstein investigation, “How can you put a perpetrator in charge of the country’s most important sexual-assault case?” Selvaratnam describes Schneiderman as “a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” figure, and says that seeing him lauded as a supporter of women has made her “feel sick,” adding, “This is a man who has staked his entire career, his personal narrative, on being a champion for women publicly. But he abuses them privately. He needs to be called out.”
Manning Barish notes that many of her friends attended the N.I.R.H. luncheon. “His hypocrisy is epic,” she says. “He’s fooled so many people.”
A second report, “Ex: Schneiderman called me his ‘brown slave,’ would slap me until I called him ‘Master’,” appeared in the New York Post last evening.
It didn’t take long for Schneiderman’s allies to abandon him and for him to resign his post.
New York Times (“Accused of Abuse, Eric Schneiderman Resigns as New York Attorney General“):
Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general who rose to prominence as an antagonist of the Trump administration, abruptly resigned on Monday night hours after The New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of physically assaulting them.
“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the State of New York,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement. “In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me.
“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. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”
His resignation represented a stunning fall for a politician who had also assumed a prominent role in the #MeToo movement.
Mr. Schneiderman, 63, denied abusing the women, saying in a statement: “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 nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
But not long after the allegations were made public, many of his allies, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who like Mr. Schneiderman is a Democrat, called for him to step down.
“My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as attorney general,” Mr. Cuomo said.
The call was echoed by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who led the charge to oust Al Franken from the Senate. “The violent actions described by multiple women in this story are abhorrent,” she said in a statement. “Based on this extensive and serious reporting, I do not believe that Eric Schneiderman should continue to serve as attorney general.”
Under New York’s Constitution, Mr. Schneiderman’s replacement will be selected by the State Assembly and Senate by joint ballot — effectively placing the decision in the hands of the Assembly, which has many more members.
The #MeToo movement that emerged in the wake of Harvey Weinstein scandal has opened the floodgates of women who had feared going public with claims of sexual harassment and worse. While mostly a good thing, a long-overdue reckoning for those who serially abused their positions of power, there have been reasons for concern. The movement wound up lumping together everything from serious crimes and truly repugnant behavior to social awkwardness and lame jokes. And the pendulum swung too far, going from presuming women who made these charges were probably lying or at least partially to blame for the abuses they suffered to presuming those accused guilty. I have mixed feelings, for example, over whether Al Franken was treated fairly.
There are no reasons to believe Schneiderman is a victim, however. The New Yorker report, by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, goes into substantial detail about the allegations, which are gruesome, detailed, and indicative of a pattern. Four women made these claims independently. Many of the claims were made contemporaneously with the abuses, years before the #MeToo bandwagon began rolling.
It’s completely believable that the women would have been afraid to come forward against someone as powerful as Schneiderman, a man who controls the law enforcement apparatus of the state of New York. It’s equally plausible that they would have been so outraged by his hypocrisy in wrapping himself in the #MeToo movement for political gain as to come forward now.
Eric … 🙄
50 shades of unemployed …
On the bright side, if there is one to be found in this mess, Dems have a substantial numerical advantage in the Assembly, so at least his replacement will be a Democrat.
@HarvardLaw92: On the bright side, if there is one to be found in this mess, Dems have a substantial numerical advantage in the Assembly, so at least his replacement will be a Democrat.
I couldn’t craft a better charicature of the dismissive, callous liberal-of-convenience if I’d been paid to do it.
It’s the “…it was all just role-playing…” excuse that makes me suspicious. That means they’ve got you bang dead to rights, kiddo.
(Also “role-playing” that ends up with your partner needing medical attention? Wow, now we’ve got a great excuse for wife-beaters! “I was just acting out one of her slave-master fantasies, your Honor…”)
Nor could I craft a better caricature of smug, humorless virtue-signaling.
@grumpy realist: To be fair, there are a substantial number of folks who are into the Dom/Sub kink. The main issue here is that it seems pretty clear that his partners weren’t – and that moves it from kink to assault.
@Ben Wolf: uh sure…
But it strikes me that the better take-away here is that the Dems won’t tolerate this type of behavior (anymore) despite it coming from one of their “tribe” and the GOP put tribe before ethics, morality or honor.
For those who may be curious, Schneiderman’s replacement, for the time being, will be the Solicitor General. His shorter-term replacement will have to be picked by a Joint Session of the New York Assembly and Senate. Democrats have a huge majority in such a body and the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly would be the one who runs the proceeding. So, whoever replaces Schneiderman will be a Democrat. That person will only be in office until Schneiderman’s term expires, though, and that happens at the end of this year. This means the New York Attorney General’s race in November will be an open seat, although it will be the Democratic Primary in September that will effectively decide the race since the Democratic nominee would win in November easily,
@Doug Mataconis: As a further FYI – I believe the deadline to declare for the now-open AG race is July 12th.
Well, you know, we can’t all be torch wielding ultra-far-left True Believers like yourself . Some of us have to inhabit the real world …
Question though: Where is your statue?
Someone as self-righteous & sanctimonious as yourself must have a statue of themselves set up somewhere, so where’s yours? 😀
I believe you’re correct. It will be interesting to see who jumps in the race. Some people on Twitter are mentioning Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
And yet the pussy-grabbing, hush-money-paying, leader of the so-called christian right is still in office.
@Doug Mataconis: That would seem to be a solid choice from the functional/legal aspect. Not sure what kind of relations he has with the political players in the state.
I’ve also seen Tish James – the NYC Public Advocate being floated.
If I had my way…
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
Bharara would be a great choice, but it’s not clear that he is interested in the position.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
That would have the very great virtue of driving Trump nuts.
Our friend Charles Pierce suggests that Ms Hillary Clinton is a New York state licensed attorney and should have the time on her hands….
Preet Bharara put a gag order on Reason magazine.
This would be considered disqualifying for a Republican AG.
When you read up on things like the Trojan War, or Ancient Greek and Roman history, you are often struck by what a***holes, d*cks and douchebags the leaders of the times were. From time to time, you are also a bit shocked to realize these were the prominent, respected men of their era.
I wonder how future generations will view our era in moral terms. I don’t expect kindly.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Here’s another quote from Trump, Tweeted September 11, 2013: “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”
As noted above, no evidence he’s interested. But please gawd. It would be a perfect example of goes around, comes around. And Hillary would be even better.
If Hillary were to successfully prosecute Trump the base would see it as a vendetta and deep state plot. But they’re going to believe that anyway, so who cares.
I am wondering whether being fired would mean he would need to recuse from Trump related stuff.
Nobody cares what would or wouldn’t be “acceptable” with regard to some hypothetical Republican AG in NY, as one will never be either selected or elected. Preet Bharara is a Democrat.
A big one … 🙂
Can we all just let Mrs. Clinton go away…I mean, I get the attraction…but there is no way on this planet she could prosecute Dennison and it would be seen as fair or legitimate.
The Democratic Party needs to find a new generation of leaders.
Scott Greenfield at the blawg, Simple Justice speculates
“Barbara Underwood, who has been a prosecutor for as long as I can remember”
A vanity appointment may not be in the offing as the NYAG office will need some reputation rebuilding.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
Clinton hasn’t actively practiced law since 1994 -24 years ago – and she isn’t admitted in NY (or, for that matter, anywhere else). Although technically speaking, she doesn’t have to be, in practice admission to the NYS bar is a requirement.
She’s realistically not an option.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Indeed!
James Mothafuckin Comey.
The “it was just rough sex play” has worked as a defence at least once in a celebrity case (the Jian Ghomeshi example). However, Mr. Ghomeshi has never regained substantial media employment.
How come all the Dems resign when faced with these accusations and the Republicans won’t go away?
I was pointing out that would be a deal breaker with libertarians for any AG appointed to replace a Republican in a Red State.
They will ignore it for any AG appointed to replace a Democrat in a Blue State because Trump.
Metoo is mainly snaring Democrats because the GOP is the party of the Duke Lacrosse/UVA Frat gang rape apologists that will hypocritically not defend Schneiderman.
Who gives a flying f’k what libertarians think about anything?
I agree that the GOP are hypocrites, though. Thanks for admitting that.
@pylon: Yeah, the “rough sex” defense came to public prominence 30 years ago with the “Preppy Murder” case of Robert Chambers. I found an interesting law journal write-up.
and do you know what republicans would do without libertarian support?
Exactly what they’re doing now, so deal breaker of no, your hypothetical republican AG would be appointed anyway. Now, if that AG nominee said something unflattering about Trump…
Given the track record of Democrats in the position of New York AG… Eliot Spitzer Cuomo the Lesser and now Snyderman, I’m interested in how you define “bright side”.
I would think that would be obvious, even to someone like yourself.
We control the AG slot, and get to use it as a tool to bodyslam Trump & his company at the state law level, and you guys don’t get any input / can’t do anything about it.
Whatever it takes 🙂