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Patterns of defending the powerful

As celebrities dress in Catholic-themed couture, an abuse scandal rocks New York politics

Patterns of defending the powerful

Eric Schneiderman (Seth Wenig/AP)

A New York moment: 

Monday was the city’s big fashion night, the Met Gala held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This year’s theme was plastered on the front of the museum: “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” The evening featured, of course, high profile celebrities dressed in sometimes unsettling tributes to Catholicism—the pop star Rihanna, for example, came dressed as a glittery pope. 

But for one night, celebrities didn’t draw the most attention: At 6:47 p.m., The New Yorker posted a bombshell report with named sources alleging that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had physically abused women (he denied the allegations). The details are specific, violent, and horrifying.

Within three hours of the story going up, one of the most powerful figures in New York government had resigned. Schneiderman had constructed a very political, high-profile persona—launching investigations and filing lawsuits over just about any policy coming from the Trump administration (and he had dogged President Donald Trump with lawsuits before he ran for office). 

Schneiderman has characterized himself as a progressive and feminist, and recently bragged that he worked at an abortion center before Roe v. Wade. One woman in The New Yorker report said her friends had discouraged her from reporting the abuse because of he was “too valuable” for Democrats to lose. 

That’s a narrative I’ve seen over and over in reporting stories of abuse or sexual misconduct from public figures, be they in Christian ministries or in government—that the perpetrator’s ongoing work for “the cause” is more important than justice for a victim. That reasoning is often based on the idea that this was a one-time offense. Don’t let one mistake derail a glowing career! But in reporting these stories, we find that there is typically more than one victim. 

Worth your time:

The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland Athletics so he could be closer to his family after his mom was diagnosed with ALS. ESPN did a moving story on the family, and shortly after it aired Gretchen Piscotty died.  

This week I learned:

That New York City ships its sewage to landfills in other states, notably Alabama. Washington, D.C., by contrast, converts its waste to thermal energy. A small town in Alabama suffered from the New York smells after 200 train cars full of waste halted nearby during months of legal disputes. Mercifully the town’s mayor recently announced that the cars had moved along to a landfill.

A court case you might not know about: 

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state could not provide grants to historic churches to maintain their buildings. It will be interesting to see whether that ruling will stand in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Trinity Lutheran last year.   

Culture I am consuming:

Leon Bridges’ new album, Good Thing. 

Postscript: Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback. ebelz@wng.org