New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman resigned Monday (May 8) evening, hours after the New Yorker published a report detailing abuse allegations against him by four women.
Schneiderman was under pressure to step down after New York governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement earlier in the day: “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, and for the good of the office, he should resign.”
In the New Yorker article, the women described the 63-year-old Schneiderman as a man who heavily drank and was physically and emotionally abusive, both during and outside of sex. Two of the four women went on the record with their names: Michelle Manning Barish, a political activist who dated Schneiderman on and off from 2013 to 2015, and Tanya Selvaratnam, an author and actor who dated him from 2016 to 2017.
In a statement, Schneiderman said he contested the allegations:
“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.”
An advocate for women’s causes, Schneiderman’s profile rose after women came forward last year (paywall) detailing a pattern of abuse by Harvey Weinstein over decades. In February, he filed a lawsuit against the film mogul and his company for failing to protect its employees and to compensate his victims.
In the New Yorker report, the women described a different side of Schneiderman, saying he slapped, shoved, and choked them.
“The slaps started after we’d gotten to know each other,” Selvaratnam told the New Yorker. “It was at first as if he were testing me. Then it got stronger and harder. … It wasn’t consensual. This wasn’t sexual playacting. This was abusive, demeaning, threatening behavior.”
The first time Schneiderman allegedly slapped Manning Barish, she said the blow landed on her ear, resulting in an injury that bothered her for month, with blood trickling out of her ear and onto her collarbone at one point.
“I want to make it absolutely clear,” Manning Barish said. “This was under no circumstances a sex game gone wrong. This did not happen while we were having sex. I was fully dressed and remained that way. It was completely unexpected and shocking. I did not consent to physical assault.”
Before tendering his resignation, Schneiderman in his statement characterized the events in question as “role-playing” in the bedroom:
“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.”
Some of the women profiled said they were hesitant about going public with their stories because Schneiderman has been considered a strong ally to women. But Selvaratnam felt this was all the more reason to come forward: “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.”