New York attorney general quits after misconduct claims

Eric Schneiderman, a prominent backer of #MeToo movement, faces abuse allegations

 Eric Schneiderman said he “strongly” contested the allegations but would step down by the end of business on Tuesday. Photograph:  Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Eric Schneiderman said he “strongly” contested the allegations but would step down by the end of business on Tuesday. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

 

Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general who has been a prominent supporter of the #MeToo movement, resigned late on Monday after four women accused him of physical abuse in a New Yorker article.

The allegations came from women who had relationships with Mr Schneiderman, who denied assault and non-consensual sex but said the claims would prevent him from continuing in his job.

“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 non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross,” he said in an initial statement on Monday.

Later, after the New York state governor called for his resignation, Mr Schneiderman said he “strongly” contested the allegations but would step down by the end of business on Tuesday.

Mr Schneiderman – who brought a civil lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer, after sexual assault allegations were made by dozens of women – is accused of hitting and choking romantic partners without their consent. The claims were made by four women, two of whom spoke to the New Yorker on the record.

The New York attorney general is the latest person to be accused of improper behaviour as the #MeToo movement has encouraged women to speak out about alleged wrongdoing by powerful men in business and government.

Trump critic

He has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, leading a charge by attorneys general to block the Trump administration’s policies in the courts, and a thorn in the side of Wall Street banks. Since 2010, the New York attorney general has secured $4 billion (€3.4 billion) in settlements over the mis-selling of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Andrew Cuomo, New York state governor, said on Monday he would ask for an investigation into Mr Schneiderman by a New York district attorney. He called on the attorney general to resign for the “good of the office”.

On Monday evening, shortly before Mr Schneiderman announced his resignation, Kellyanne Conway, a close adviser of Mr Trump, referred to a 2017 tweet by the attorney general in which he told Mr Trump that “No one is above the law”.

“Gotcha,” she tweeted.

Michelle Manning Barish, a political activist who dated Mr Schneiderman periodically from 2013 to 2015, told the New Yorker he repeatedly hit her across the face without her consent during sex.

However, the first time he hit her, they were fully clothed, the New Yorker reported. “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,” she told the magazine.

Ms Manning Barish said on Twitter on Monday she had spoken up “after the most difficult month of my life”. “I could not remain silent and encourage other women to be brave for me,” she said.

Tanya Selvaratnam, an author, gave a similar account to the magazine. She was romantically involved with Mr Schneiderman in 2016 and 2017.

‘Not consensual’

Ms Selvaratnam told the New Yorker the slaps were not consensual and said: “This wasn’t sexual playacting. This was abusive, demeaning, threatening behaviour.

“After I found out that other women had been abused by attorney general Schneiderman in a similar manner many years before me, I wondered, who’s next, and knew something needed to be done,” Ms Selvaratnam said in a statement provided by her spokesperson.

“I chose to come forward both to protect women who might enter into a relationship with him in the future but also to raise awareness around the issue of intimate partner violence.”

Earlier this month, Mr Schneiderman, a vocal advocate for women’s rights, was given a “Champions of Choice” award by the National Institute of Reproductive Health.

“If a woman cannot control her body she is not truly equal,” he said as he accepted the award. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018