New York state’s top prosecutor, a public champion of the #MeToo movement, resigned on Monday hours after being accused by The New Yorker magazine of physically assaulting four women.
It was an abrupt fall from power for Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general and a Donald Trump opponent whose office had launched multiple legal challenges against the Republican administration.
“In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
“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.”
Two of the women spoke to the magazine on the record, alleging that Schneiderman repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent.
Both say they sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face and also choked, the magazine said.
The New Yorker said none of the women classified the behaviour as consensual.
Earlier, Schneiderman issued a statement denying that he had assaulted anyone or that he had ever engaged in non-consensual sex.
“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” he said.
Nothing ‘as despicable’
Schneiderman is the latest powerful man to fall in the wake of the avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations from women that have poured forth since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke late last year and effectively ended the Hollywood movie producer’s career.
In February, Schneiderman sued The Weinstein Company for failing to protect its employees from the disgraced mogul despite multiple complaints from staff.
“We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here,” Schneiderman said then.
He had also been instructed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to review a 2015 decision by the Manhattan district attorney not to prosecute Weinstein over allegations of assault.
One of the women named in The New Yorker story described her experiences with Schneiderman as awful.
Michelle Manning Barish said he slapped her after they had been drinking.
“It was horrendous,” she told the magazine.
“It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backwards 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 fibre, I felt I was being beaten by a man,” she said.
After the allegations against Schneiderman emerged, fellow Democrat Cuomo urged him to resign.
“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,” Cuomo said.
Schneiderman “has made a career railing against this type of abuse. Yet apparently he intends to revictimize these courageous women who have come forward by pulling out that age-old sexist trope that they wanted it,” said Debra Katz, a lawyer for Manning Barish.