By VICTORIA BEKIEMPIS, Kenneth Lovett and Leonard Greene
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is resigning amid allegations that he physically assaulted four women he dated.
Schneiderman, an outspoken supporter of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, bowed to pressure from politicians, including Gov. Cuomo, who called for him to step down.
“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as Attorney General for the people of the State of New York,” 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.”
According to The New Yorker, which shared a Pulitzer Prize last month with The New York Times for stories about sexual harassment, the accusers charged that Schneiderman “repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent.”
At least two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, categorized the abuse as “assault.” The other two women declined to be identified because they feared reprisal, the magazine said.
Barish and Selvaratnam did not report the allegations to the police, but both said they sought medical attention after they were slapped hard across the ear and face.
They also said Schneiderman choked them.
Selvaratnam said Schneiderman followed up the abuse with threats, telling her that he could have her followed and have her phones tapped.
Barish and Selvaratnam both said he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him.
A Schneiderman representative told The New Yorker that the attorney general “never made any of these threats.”
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman buckled under the pressure of politicians by announcing he will resign Tuesday. (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)
In a statement, Schneiderman denied any wrongdoing.
“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” Schneiderman said. “I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
Cuomo, in a statement, had called for Schneiderman’s immediate resignation. “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” Cuomo said.
“I will be asking an appropriate New York District Attorney to commence an immediate investigation and proceed as the facts merit,” it said. “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.”
With Schneiderman’s resignation, the legislature will select his replacement until a new one is elected in November.
Schneiderman, who is divorced, was one of the most outspoken public officials as the walls caved in on Hollywood honcho Harvey Weinstein, who had been accused by dozens of women of rape and sexual assault.
“We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here,” Schneiderman said after filing a civil rights suit against Weinstein.
Barish, who was romantically involved with Schneiderman from the summer of 2013 until early 2015, said she was outraged by the hypocrisy.
“You cannot be a champion of women when you are hitting them and choking them in bed, and saying to them, ‘You’re a f—ing whore,’ “ Barish told the magazine. “How can you put a perpetrator in charge of the country’s most important sexual-assault case?”
She said she could no longer stay silent.
“After the most difficult month of my life-I spoke up,” Barish wrote in a tweet. “For my daughter and for all women. I could not remain silent and encourage other women to be brave for me. I could not.”
Selvaratnam said the abuse was not consensual.
“The slaps started after we’d gotten to know each other,” she 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,” Selvaratnam told the magazine. “This was abusive, demeaning, threatening behavior.”
In the midst of the violence, she said, Schneiderman made sexual demands.
“He was obsessed with having a threesome, and said it was my job to find a woman,” she said. “He said he’d have nothing to look forward to if I didn’t, and would hit me until I agreed.”
She said she did not agree to a threesome.
“Sometimes, he’d tell me to call him Master, and he’d slap me until I did,” said Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, and has dark skin. “He started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’ “
She also said Schneiderman drank a lot and took sedatives.
Schneiderman has led the charge against President Trump, leading a coalition of attorneys general in a suit to block the White House on several immigration initiatives. He’d previously sued him over his now-defunct Trump University.
Donald Trump Jr. was quick to gloat, retweeting a tweet from his father.
Gov. Cuomo released a statement saying Schneiderman should step down immediately. (James Keivom/New York Daily News)
“Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone – next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman,” the President tweeted in 2013. “Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner.”
Schneiderman’s ex-wife, political consultant, Jennifer Cunningham, came to the AG’s defense.
“I’ve known Eric for nearly 35 years as a husband, father and friend,” Cunningham said in a statement. “These allegations are completely inconsistent with the man I know, who has always been someone of the highest character, outstanding values and a loving father.”
Earlier in the day, a source close to Schneiderman said there was no immediate talk of him resigning or not running for re-election in the fall.
“We’re taking this one step at a time,” the source said.
Manny Alicandro, a Republican lawyer who formally announced his candidacy for attorney general Monday, called the allegations against Schneiderman “absolutely disgusting” and called on him to resign.
“He’s a monster,” Alicandro told the Daily News. “I think he should turn himself into the authorities and resign. This pattern of abuse is mortifying.”
When The New Yorker and the Times won a Pulitzer Prize last month, Schneiderman was one of the first to go online with a congratulatory comment.
“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,” Schneiderman tweeted at the time. “A well-deserved honor.”