State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday night that he will resign amid allegations that he slapped and choked four women.
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, after the women said he physically assaulted them.
“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 at about 9:45 p.m.
“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.”
The New Yorker, which shared a Pulitzer Prize last month with The New York Times for stories about sexual harassment, reported Monday that his accusers said 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.
Manning 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 he could have her followed and have her phones tapped. Manning 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.”
In an initial statement, Schneiderman, 63, denied any wrongdoing.
“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity,” he said. “I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
The AG resigned nearly four hours after the article went online.
In a statement, Cuomo had called for Schneiderman’s immediate resignation.
“No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said he would ask one or more district attorneys to investigate the allegations.
Danny Frost, a spokesman for Manhattan DA Cy Vance said Vance’s office would look into the matter.
“Our office has opened an investigation into the recently reported allegations concerning Mr. Schneiderman,” Frost said.
Actress Cynthia Nixon, who is running against Cuomo in the Democratic primary for governor, called Schneiderman’s accusers “brave.”
“We need to get to the bottom of the enormous culture of silence that protects those in power,” she said. “We must continue to work to end this national epidemic.”
Several politicians, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Controller Scott Stringer issued statements supporting the resignation.
But Mayor de Blasio declined comment, saying he would speak on the matter Tuesday.
Under state law, the Legislature will select Schneiderman’s replacement, who will serve until the term expires in January.
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.
Manning 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,’ ” Manning 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,” Manning 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. “This wasn’t sexual play-acting,” she 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, heading a coalition of state 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. “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.”
But 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,” she 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.”
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