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The “Too Valuable” Myth

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a news conference with other U.S. State Attorney’s General to announce a state-based effort to combat climate change in the Manhattan borough of New York City, March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Another shoe drops:

Now Schneiderman is facing a reckoning of his own. As his prominence as a voice against sexual misconduct has risen, so, too, has the distress of four women with whom he has had romantic relationships or encounters. They accuse Schneiderman of having subjected them to nonconsensual physical violence. All have been reluctant to speak out, fearing reprisal. But two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have talked to The New Yorker on the record, because they feel that doing so could protect other women. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent. Manning Barish and Selvaratnam categorize the abuse he inflicted on them as “assault.” They did not report their allegations to the police at the time, but both say that they eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face, and also choked. Selvaratnam says that Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped, and both say that he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. (Schneiderman’s spokesperson said that he “never made any of these threats.”)


Manning Barish and Schneiderman were together, off and on, for nearly two years. She says that when they had sex he often slapped her across the face without her consent, and that she felt “emotionally battered” by cruel remarks that he made. She says that he criticized how she looked and dressed, and “controlled what I ate.” Manning Barish, who is five feet seven, lost thirty pounds, falling to a hundred and three. In a photograph from the period, she looks emaciated; her hair, she recalls, started to fall out. Nevertheless, he squeezed her legs and called them “chubby.”


When Schneiderman was violent, he often made sexual demands. “He was obsessed with having a threesome, and said it was my job to find a woman,” she says. “He said he’d have nothing to look forward to if I didn’t, and would hit me until I agreed.” (She had no intention of having a threesome.) She recalls, “Sometimes, he’d tell me to call him Master, and he’d slap me until I did.” Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, has dark skin, and she recalls that “he started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’ ”

Cuomo has already called on him to resign, which will hopefully happen before the end of the day.

As Dayen observes, this is also important:

After the former girlfriend ended the relationship, she told several friends about the abuse. A number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose. She described this response as heartbreaking. And when Schneiderman heard that she had turned against him, she said, he warned her that politics was a tough and personal business, and that she’d better be careful. She told Selvaratnam that she had taken this as a threat.

This would be a terrible argument even if it was true. But it’s ridiculous even on its own terms — as Dayen says, Schneiderman is an eminently replaceable publicity hound. (I suspect we’re not going to hear this bullshit much because what Schneiderman is accused of such egregious behavior, but it came up all the time during the Assassination of Al Franken by the Coward Kirsten Gillibrand and Absolutely Nobody Else, Just the Graspingly Ambitious Kirsten Gillibrand. Yes, finding an ambitious Democrat able to win re-election in a wave election in a blue-purple state is truly nature’s rarest commodity.)

One of the factors that allows for powerful known abusers to keep abusing is the ability of white men to create the impression that they’re irreplaceable talents even when they’re hacks and mediocrities. Lottery winners like to tell themselves they’ve been rewarded by a perfect meritocracy even when there are plenty of people who could do their jobs as well or better. The ratings of their morning shows weren’t hurt when Lauer and Rose got canned, for example. The myth of the Irreplaceable White Guy helps justify and cover up a lot of terrible behavior.


Well, attempts to turn this into a Both Sides Are the Same argument will become applicable again as soon as Trump resigns.

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