Democrats hoped Eric Schneiderman could bring down President Trump, but it was the crusading New York attorney general himself whose career is now in tatters, after stunning revelations Monday of bad behavior and hypocrisy that have Republicans gloating.
Schneiderman quickly picked up a high-profile reputation in the Trump era for his legal pushback and acerbic criticism of some of Trump’s top agenda items. He was hailed as an icon of the #Resistance by the anti-Trump left and gushing profiles by media outlets.
With the rise of the #MeToo movement, pushing back against sexual harassment of women, Schneiderman also became a key figure in the growing crusade. Not only did he use his authority to take legal action against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, he has been outspoken in the push for a “critical national reckoning” about the harassment of women.
But on Monday, The New Yorker reported on four women’s claims that Schneiderman had repeatedly hit them, threatened them, and demeaned them. The graphic accusations include that he choked a former girlfriend, controlled what she ate and left her “emotionally battered,” and demanded that another girlfriend, who was born in Sri Lanka and who Schneiderman referred to as his "brown slave," call him “Master.”
The article indicated the women came forward for a number of reasons, including the resignation of White House aide Rob Porter over claims he had abused his ex-wives. But the piece also reported that the women’s “anguish and anger grew” as he used his office to become a figurehead for the growing #MeToo movement.
“[Y]ou 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,’” Michelle Manning Barish, one of the women speaking out, told the New Yorker.
“His hypocrisy is epic,” she says. “He’s fooled so many people.”
“This is a man who has staked his entire career, his personal narrative, on being a champion for women publicly. But he abuses them privately,” Tanya Selvaratnam told the outlet. “He needs to be called out.”
Schneiderman denied the accusations 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,” Schneiderman said.
But within three hours of the article being published Monday night, Schneiderman announced that he would step down as attorney general at end-of-day Tuesday.
The accusations brought a wave of condemnation from both the right and the left (fellow New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo had called the pattern of facts and corroboration “damning” and called for Schneiderman to resign after the article was published.)
But those on the Trump team whom Schneiderman had targeted made little attempt to hide their glee at their foe’s sudden downfall.
“Gotcha,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tweeted, referencing a tweet of Schneiderman’s in which he said that “no one is above the law.”
Donald Trump Jr. dug up past statements Schneiderman had made about the #MeToo movement, snarking: “Self awareness level 0.”
On Tuesday morning, he was still taunting the disgraced AG, writing “Hey Eric, it’s not ‘role play’ if only one of you is in on it.”
Radio host Dana Loesch also cited a statement by Schneiderman in support of sexual assault survivors, and noted that “literally fighting women is not the same as fighting FOR women.”
Trump Jr., and other conservatives pointed to President Trump’s past tweets about Schneiderman, including claims that he wore eyeliner and also a cryptic 2013 tweet that promised he was “worse than” disgraced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, both of whom resigned amid sexual scandals.
“It’s like he can see into the future,” Trump Jr. tweeted.
Even his media allies have turned, though.
In a November interview with Full Frontal’s Samantha Bee, where he was presented as a superhero (nicknamed “Schneider-Man” and given a jingle declaring “only he can save us all!”), Schneiderman laid out his achievements in the Trump era.
“We beat him on travel ban one, we beat him on travel ban two, we beat him on environmental regulations and transgender military ban and we will continue to fight,” he said, before denying that he was a superhero.
Now, Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” tweeted a screenshot of Schneiderman boasting on Twitter of the superhero mockups the TBS show had made for his November appearance.
“Take this the f--- down,” the tweet said.