Poof. One minute, Eric Schneiderman was one of the country’s foremost attorneys general, revered as a champion of the #MeToo movement and nemesis of President Trump. The next minute, Schneiderman was gone, resigning in a heartbeat after being accused of assaulting women.
How does that happen? It happens because people knew.
The New Yorker, which spilled the beans on the liberal darling’s alleged horrific physical and emotional abuse of women, had, after all, been working on the story for a long time. The four women accusing their former boyfriend of slapping and choking them had their stories corroborated by their friends and their associates.
Michelle Manning Barish, for instance, had shared her horrifying tales of assault with author Salman Rushdie, whom she had once dated. She is a political activist, who, according to The New Yorker, was involved with MoveOn.org.
Schneiderman, however, denied wrongdoing. In a statement saying that he was resigning at the close of business Tuesday, Schneiderman said: “In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me.” He added the he was resigning because the allegations “will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time.”
Like Manning Barish, some of Schneiderman’s other alleged victims were politically active in New York’s progressive circles. They told their stories to their colleagues.
People talk, but no one was initially willing to confront the attorney general, partly out of fear. On more than one occasion, Schneiderman allegedly threatened to kill his victims, tap their phones or otherwise exact revenge if they went public to accuse him of misconduct.
The women said they took such warnings seriously, especially since Schneiderman was the state’s top law enforcement official. In one instance he allegedly declared, “I am the law.”
More inexcusable is that nobody on the left wanted to take down the #MeToo advocate because they feared losing an important voice for progressive values, even if that voice was entirely phony. Not only was the attorney general a strong supporter of women’s rights, he was virulently anti-Trump.
One of Schneiderman’s accusers is described in The New Yorker piece as “an accomplished Ivy League-educated lawyer with government experience … (who had) worked closely with his office in the past, and supported him politically.”
Asked why she did not press charges after Schneiderman allegedly hit her so hard he left a red welt on her face, she said, “I thought, he’s a good attorney general, he’s doing good things. I didn’t want to jeopardize that.”
You wonder, did anyone at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which recently honored Schneiderman for his work on behalf of women, hear any rumblings? Did anyone in the audience squirm when he accepted their award and said, “If a woman cannot control her body, she is not truly equal?”
Did Samantha Bee know when, last fall, her TV show called Schneiderman a “hero who stood up for democracy” because of his attacks on President Trump?
My guess is that dozens of well-connected politicos in New York were nervously awaiting the day when this story might break. When it finally did, the calls for Schneiderman to step down were instantaneous, including from political teammates in New York like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Revelations that film producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misdeeds were broadly known in Hollywood have cast an unfavorable shadow on the film industry. Similarly, Democrats may face accusations that they were aware of Schneiderman’s alleged misconduct, but did nothing to stop him.
Not since Client Number 9 – also known as former Attorney General (and later governor) Eliot Spitzer – aggressively pursued prostitution in New York, all the while keeping a prominent house of prostitution speed dial, has a law enforcement official allegedly acted with such brazen hypocrisy.
Schneiderman’s embrace of the women’s movement has been full-throated. His office is suing Harvey Weinstein for sexual misconduct. Schneiderman said in connection with that suit, “We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here.” Not until now, if the claims about Schneiderman’s conduct are true.
The women accusing Schneiderman of beating and choking them suggest an oft-repeated pattern of behavior. In such cases, it will not be surprising if others step forward.
Initially only a handful of women were willing to confront Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein; soon the numbers swelled. It isn’t easy to take on a public figure like TV morning show hosts Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer, especially if your career is at stake. Especially if you are frightened.
While he denied abusing women, Schneiderman said 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.”
This sounds like Schneiderman was channeling another famously aggressive attorney general, the fictional Chuck Rhoades in “Billions,” who with his wife gets into some pretty kinky sadomasochistic sex. The difference, someone should tell Schneiderman, is that it is Rhodes who ends up burned and battered, not his wife Wendy.
The astonishing aspect of this case is Schneiderman’s apparent ability to separate his public and private lives. Earlier, as a New York state senator chairing a committee investigating domestic violence charges against Democratic state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, he introduced a bill that laid out criminal penalties for strangulation.
The bill, which became a law, made life-threatening choking a serious crime, punishable by up to a year in prison.
Did Schneiderman not ever imagine, as he allegedly used his body weight to cut off his partners’ breathing, that he might be charged under his very own bill?
It is hard to fathom the depravity, and also the hubris of a man who received accolades for standing up for women, while at the same time allegedly knocking them around. It is tempting to ascribe his alleged behavior in part to the arrogance and moral superiority that enlivens members of the progressive left these days as they take on President Trump and his supporters.
Schneiderman boosted his standing and his political prospects by carrying on a long-running feud with President Trump and more recently suing the Trump administration on numerous occasions.
In 2013, President Trump tweeted that former U.S. Rep. Anthony "Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone – next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner."
Once again, Trump wins.