It's hard to imagine that disgraced former NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned earlier this week after four women came forward to accuse him of hitting and choking them, didn't have any clue that the New Yorker article which exposed his behavior was coming. Nevertheless, he went through with an interview with Alec Baldwin for his podcast, Here's The Thing, less than four days before the bombshell article was released.
In the wake of the allegations and resignation, Baldwin's team rushed to get the episode out, which now stands as an unintentional exit interview in which Schneiderman's arrogance and seeming sense of invulnerability is on full display.
"What follows may make for difficult listening," Baldwin says in the intro. "In our talk, you'll hear him return multiple times to his record in support of women's rights. Looking back on our preparations with his office, there were signs maybe something was amiss. His communications director requested, surprisingly to us, that we not mention the Harvey Weinstein case, or #MeToo, or the attorney general's past relationships. It is a complicated thing listening to a man I respect, and who has in fact done much to support progressive causes over his 25 years in public service. But we thought it was important to post this now, so the public has access to what turns out to be Eric Schneiderman's last long-form interview as attorney general."
The one time Baldwin brought up Weinstein & #MeToo during the interview, Schneiderman responded, "Well we have an investigation into the Weinstein companies that are involved with a variety of matters related to that. So, uh…can't touch on that. I mean, look, the movement is extraordinary. I think it's changing the conversation. It is a part of what I see is this moment of social transformation and of the emergence of a new political movement, but it's uh, you know, that's a whole other podcast."
As for his own ambitions, he said, "Yeah, I mean I'm running for reelection now and I expect to run a great campaign moving around the state and helping down-ballot races. And then, look, I'm very much committed to continuing to build and lead the legal resistance to what's going on in Washington. I'm very inspired to be a State actor in this era of progressive federalism, for the next couple years. And then we'll see what happens. I want to get us through this four years of Trump and Pence, and then at that point I'm really playing with house money. We’ve got to get through this period of national trauma and I can play a role that’s beyond anything I ever would have expected and I'm pleased to be doing it."
The interview, which you can listen to here, also touches on Cynthia Nixon's gubernatorial campaign, the midterm elections, presidential pardons, and the Cuomo/de Blasio feud. On that last front, he said, "I think it would probably be better for everyone to try and work together and find whatever common ground we can because quite honestly, we're in a moment of history where the biggest challenges we face are from the federal government."
The carefully cultivated image of Schneiderman as a progressive hero is the subject of a NY Times story today, in which they described his reputation around Albany as that of "a teetotaler who favored coffee shops over bars, liked yoga and health food and preferred high-minded intellectual and legal debate to the hand-to-hand combat of New York’s political arena." The kicker on the piece was particularly striking:
Mr. Schneiderman’s reputation for propriety was so entrenched in Albany that he was meant to be lampooned at a legislative correspondents’ variety show on Monday night — before the story broke — for being “so lame,” and unscathed by the scandals that have often waylaid Albany politicians. After the magazine article was published, that musical number was altered, exchanging Mr. Schneiderman’s name for Chuck Schumer’s, the Democratic senator from New York.
That Times story mentions that most of Schneiderman’s office was as caught off-guard as everyone else about the allegations. A State Of Politics post yesterday gave an overview of what it was like in the office as the news came out. They claim that New Yorker reporters only called the AG's office on Sunday for comment (it's not clear whether they had reached out to Schneiderman directly before that). Things spiraled quickly after that:
Schneiderman huddled with members of his inner circle including ex-wife Jennifer Cunningham who doled out advice. Communications guru Stu Loeser was quickly hired by Schneiderman as a crisis communications consultant. A handful of other valued staffers in the office were brought in and out of the conversations with the AG and his quickly shrinking inner circle. When the article finally popped just before 7pm on Monday night “There wasn’t much disagreement.” People realized this was not exactly something they could spin their way out of. Schneiderman had already issued a statement that while not outright confirming the allegations, certainly did not vociferously deny them.
The staff began gaming out options. How could Schneiderman ever have a press conference about anything again without being tainted? It quickly became evident that it would be impossible for him to continue to do the job. And while Governor Cuomo swiftly coming out and calling for Schneiderman’s resignation certainly didn’t help matters, no one in the office chimed in and said the words, “Eric should stay and fight” either.
Schneiderman was not actually in the office when the article hit the web, but many of the dedicated staffers at the AG's office were. Because as one insider put it, “we are underpaid and overworked public servants.”
Since the release of the article, at least one more woman came forward and spoke to the NY Post about a terrible date she had with Schneiderman in 2010. While there was no physical violence during the encounter, it does paint Schneiderman as a creep: as he was driving after imbibing several drinks, "He basically said, 'I’m a state senator, and I rule this neighborhood.'" Later, she claims this happened:
“Then at a red light, he leans over and kisses me. But it was a really aggressive tongue-down-your-throat kind of kiss. And I pulled away, and he asked if there was a problem.
“And I said, ‘Actually, I just like a little bit of tongue.’ ’’
She said Schneiderman shot back, “ ‘Oh, do you just like a little bit of d-k, too?’
Update The intro for Baldwin's interview with Schneiderman was changed on Wednesday. The following lines were removed from the opening audio: "Looking back on our preparations with his office, there were signs maybe something was amiss. His communications director requested, surprisingly to us, that we not mention the Harvey Weinstein case, or #MeToo, or the attorney general's past relationships."
A source in the Attorney General's office told ABC News that they "disputed the characterization and that prompted its removal." A spokesperson for WNYC said that the AG's office objected to editorializing in the intro.
Here's the Thing (produced by WNYC Studios, which shares the same parent company, New York Public Radio, as Gothamist) put up a third version of the intro on Thursday evening that put back in the line, "His communications director requested that we not mention the Harvey Weinstein case, or #MeToo, or the attorney general's past relationships." (Note: the AG's office refuted even that in a comment to the Daily News, saying that "no such request was made.")