On Monday, the New Yorker published an article about New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who has been an outspoken advocate for women. As the top law enforcement official in New York state, Schneiderman played a prominent role in filing a civil rights lawsuit against movie producer Harvey Weinstein amid allegations of sexual assault.
But the New Yorker article about Schneiderman revealed that, behind the scenes, he was allegedly physically abusive toward at least four women.
Two women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, told the New Yorker on the record that they had been in romantic relationships with Schneiderman when he choked and slapped them, leading them to seek medical treatment.
The New Yorker also said a third woman made similar accusations of nonconsensual physical violence, while a fourth — described as an attorney who has held high positions in the New York legal sphere — told the magazine that when she rejected one of Schneiderman’s advances, he “slapped her across the face with such force that it left a mark that lingered the next day.” All four women said their physical abuse was not consensual.
Hours after the article published, Schneiderman resigned. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said it has launched an investigation into the allegations. The New York Police Department said in a statement Monday night that it did not have any complaints on file regarding Schneiderman.
“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.”
He said his resignation would be effective “at the close of business” on Tuesday, marking a sudden, stunning fall for a politician who is a prominent opponent of President Trump and was expected to one day run for governor in New York.
His resignation exemplifies the power of allegations of physical and sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, adding Schneiderman to the lengthy list of high-profile men who have fallen from power after women came forward to make painful accusations.
Schneiderman had denied assaulting the women, saying in a statement: "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.”
The New Yorker story was written by Jane Mayer, an acclaimed veteran of the magazine, and Ronan Farrow, who recently shared in a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in the magazine on the allegations against Weinstein.
Manning Barish told the New Yorker that about four weeks after their physical relationship began, Schneiderman became violent. She recalled to the magazine how Schneiderman slapped her one night after they had both been drinking:
“All of a sudden, he just slapped me, openhanded and with great force, across the face, landing the blow directly onto my ear,” Manning Barish says. “It was horrendous. It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backward 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.”
On Monday, shortly after the article’s publication, Manning Barish tweeted a link to it, adding, “After the most difficult month of my life-I spoke up. For my daughter and for all women. I could not remain silent and encourage other women to be brave for me. I could not.”
Jennifer Cunningham, Schneiderman’s ex-wife and a political strategist, released a statement Monday saying she was surprised by the accusations against her ex-husband.
“I’ve known Eric for nearly thirty-five years as a husband, father, and friend,” she said. “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. I find it impossible to believe these allegations are true.”
In the New Yorker story, Selvaratnam said many of the attacks occurred after Schneiderman drank alcohol. He often drank heavily, she said, consuming a bottle and half of wine or more — and then berated her the next morning for “not having kept him away from the alcohol,” the magazine reported.
Selvaratnam described how Schneiderman once called her from a hospital emergency room:
“He told me that he’d been drinking the night before he fell down. He didn’t realize he’d cut himself, and got into bed, and when he woke up he was in a pool of blood.” Selvaratnam rushed to the hospital. Schneiderman had several stitches above his left eye; his face was puffy and bruised. He had her send his press secretary a photograph of the injury, and they agreed to cancel a public appearance. In the image, which was shared with The New Yorker, Schneiderman has a black eye and a bandage across the left side of his forehead. Schneiderman then called Cunningham, his ex-wife and political consultant, and they agreed that he and Selvaratnam should tell anyone who asked about the injury that he had fallen “while running.”
The incident occurred on the morning of Jan. 19, 2017, the day before Trump’s inauguration.
Schneiderman has been a longtime opponent of Trump, an antagonistic history that predated his wave of legal actions against the president’s policies in office. In 2013, Schneiderman filed a suit against Trump’s now-defunct real estate seminar program, Trump University, which later settled for $25 million. Schneiderman also launched an investigation into Trump’s charitable foundation, and when Trump announced before taking office that he would shut down his foundation, Schneiderman’s office said it could not dissolve until that probe concluded.