(Reuters) - New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned on Monday after allegations of physical abuse by four women were reported in an article in the New Yorker magazine.
Governor Andrew Cuomo had called for Schneiderman's resignation within hours of the article's publication, and only slightly more than an hour later Schneiderman, a Democrat who was running for re-election, said he was stepping down.
“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. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”
In the article published late on Monday, the New Yorker reported that four women who said they had had romantic relationships or encounters with Schneiderman said they had been subjected to nonconsensual physical violence.
Reuters has not independently confirmed the accusations.
“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity," Schneiderman said in a statement issued by Stu Loeser & Co before he announced his resignation. "I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross."
Cuomo, in his statement calling for Schneiderman's resignation, referred to "the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article," and said he did not believe it was possible for Schneiderman to continue to serve as attorney general.
The New Yorker reported that two of the women who spoke to the magazine "alleged that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent."
The two women who were named in the article both called the abuse by Schneiderman "assault," the magazine reported. One of the women said Schneiderman slapped her across the face after she rejected his advances and that when she told him she wanted to leave, he said, "A lot of women like it. They don't always think they like it, but then they do, and they ask for more," according to the article.
A spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the office is opening an investigation.
Schneiderman is not the first top-ranking New York politician who was forced to resign following media reports about his personal life.
Eliot Spitzer resigned as New York's governor in 2008 after a New York Times report revealed that he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a prostitute in a Washington hotel room.
Spitzer, a Democrat who as the state's attorney general before becoming governor once broke up prostitution rings, was married at the time. He faced intense pressure to resign and impeachment threats from Republicans.
Schneiderman, a Harvard-educated lawyer, has been New York state's attorney general since late 2010. He has been a high-profile proponent of the #MeToo movement, which has seen accusations of sexual misconduct leveled against prominent men in politics, media, entertainment and business. They include Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
In February, Schneiderman sued the Weinstein Company and Weinstein himself, alleging years of sexual harassment and misconduct by the movie producer.
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 70 women, including rape. He denies having non-consensual sex with anyone.
And in March, Cuomo ordered Schneiderman's office to review an investigation by Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, of a 2015 sexual assault case involving Harvey Weinstein, a case that Vance had decided not to try and prosecute.
The front page of Schneiderman's re-election campaign website on Monday night displayed his statement denying the accusations reported by the New Yorker, along with copies of news stories about his fight for abortion rights and a battle with the Trump administration. His statement of resignation was not posted.
New York state's constitution calls for the legislature to fill a vacancy in the office of the attorney general. But with the office up for election in November, any candidate chosen would serve only for a matter of months.
The primary election is scheduled for September, followed by the November general election.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Toni Reinhold; Editing by Leslie Adler)