NEW YORK — Less than three months ago, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman went before the news cameras to announce a lawsuit accusing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and his former studio of abusing and intimidating a multitude of women.
"We have never seen anything as despicable as what we've seen here," Schneiderman declared.
Now, in a stunning turn rife with seeming hypocrisy, Schneiderman's own career has imploded, collapsing just three hours after the 63-year-old Democrat was accused of choking, slapping, threatening or otherwise abusing four women during intimate encounters.
The allegations, which Schneiderman contests but which led him to resign, emerged Monday in an article in The New Yorker, a publication he hailed just last month for reporting on Weinstein and starting a "critical national reckoning" on sexual misconduct by powerful men.
It was a dizzying fall for a politician who put himself at the fore of the #MeToo movement and had cast himself as a defender of women ever since he worked at an abortion clinic at 17.
He is now facing a criminal investigation by the same district attorney's office looking into Weinstein's behavior.
Schneiderman's disgrace stunned women's groups, which suddenly found themselves deploring a man they had embraced as a proven and powerful ally.
"This was someone who many of us held up as a supporter and champion of the fight against gender violence," said Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, which aids domestic violence victims. She stood beside Schneiderman when he announced a settlement last year with a hospital that had been billing rape victims for exams.
"A tremendous betrayal. There's no other way to put it," Kluger said.
Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, said she was "shell-shocked" at the news. "When you have so few (male leaders) that prioritize women's rights," she said, "it hits like a ton of bricks."
The National Institute for Reproductive Health, an abortion-rights group, said it was "appalled and horrified" at the alleged behavior of a man it honored as a "champion of choice" just last week at a luncheon.
The accusations rocked the state and added another chapter to its history of political sex shockers, including the prostitution scandal that felled Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2008 and the serial sexting that ultimately put former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner in prison last fall.
Powerful fellow Democrats, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, quickly called for Schneiderman's resignation. Cuomo on Tuesday praised Schneiderman's accusers for having the "courage" to "take on an attorney general they believe threatened them not to go public."
The developments brought a tart tweet from President Donald Trump's eldest son. Schneiderman had positioned himself as a leader of the liberal resistance to Trump and had warned in a tweet last year that no one was above the law.
"You were saying???" Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.
Late-night comedian Samantha Bee, whose "Full Frontal" show last year created images of Schneiderman as a comic-book superhero taking on Trump, distanced herself from him, demanding on Twitter that he take down a recent tweet of the pictures.
Schneiderman denied assaulting anyone or engaging in non-consensual sex — "a line I would not cross," said the divorced father of a daughter. Contradicting his accusers, he characterized his behavior as "role-playing and other consensual sexual activity."