New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned Monday night after four women accused him of abuse in a bombshell New Yorker investigation. But fringe figures wasted no time suggesting a larger conspiracy.
The four women, two of whom agreed to speak the New Yorker on the record, accused Schneiderman of hitting and choking them, with one woman alleging that Schneiderman called her his “slave.” The allegations, which Schneiderman denies, are particularly damning in light of Schneiderman’s attempts to investigate sexual misconduct by disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and by the alleged sex cult Nxivm.
Within hours of the allegations, some conspiracy-pushers seized onto those ties to hype a pro-Trump sex trafficking theory. Others turned on Schneiderman’s alleged victims, accusing them of running “Russian propaganda.”
The latter allegation came from Louise Mensch—a former member of the UK’s Parliament who now spends her time peddling absurd theories about the Trump administration, including the claim that former Trump strategist Steve Bannon has already been convicted and sentenced to death. But Mensch still boasts a massive audience, with approximately 277,000 followers on Twitter, alone.
“Me Too is, and always has been, Russian propaganda,” Mensch tweeted Monday night. “Democrats swallowed it whole, like idiots; now brought out with a flourish to attack America.”
She later doubled down to call the allegations “a pack of lies about @AGSchneiderman and a victory for @PutinRF,” and to call for prosecution of Schneiderman accuser Michelle Manning Barish “and these other liars.”
Like many women who accuse powerful men of abuse, Schneiderman’s exes have already been attacked online by people accusing them of lying for money. Shortly after Schneiderman accuser Manning Barish tweeted a link to the New Yorker story Monday night, Twitter users piled into her mentions, attacking her nine-year-old daughter and accusing Manning Barish of accepting bribes, as The Daily Beast reported.
But internet users plugged into Mensch’s particular brand of Trump-Russia conspiracy-mongering have saved extra vitriol for women who accuse powerful Democrats of abuse. When multiple women accused former Senator Al Franken of sexual misconduct, Mensch and her cohort also accused them of running Russian interference. And when right-wing media hucksters Mike Cernovich and Chuck Johnson briefly attempted to report on a fake sexual harassment case against Sen. Chuck Schumer, Mensch suggested the hoax was all part of Franken’s plan to weed out false allegations and proclaim his innocence.
Meanwhile, pro-Trump conservatives have taken the opposite tack with Schneiderman—that it was the Attorney General, not his accusers, running interference for an evil cabal. Members of this camp support a 4chan-based conspiracy theory called QAnon, which accuses Trump’s opponents (particularly Hillary Clinton) of satanism, sex-trafficking, and pedophilia.
The theory’s true believers have latched onto reports about Nxivm, an alleged sex cult that recruited women. Websites like Your News Wire, which peddle wholly-invented conservative conspiracies, recently ran headlines claiming a Nxivm member “Confesses She Sold Children To Rothschilds And Clintons.” (The bogus claim makes no appearance in the text of the article.) Iterations of the article appeared on QAnon-themed subreddits, and have made the rounds in other conservative social media.
Immediately after Schneiderman’s resignation, QAnon believers began circulating an early April report about Schneiderman suspending New York State’s investigation into Nxivm. A flurry of fringe-right websites and social media posts implied that Schneiderman might have been covering up for Nxivm, which QAnon followers falsely believe was involved in selling child sex slaves to the Clintons.
The first line of April report on the Nxivm investigation states that Schneiderman was postponing the state-level probe in cooperation with federal authorities who had launched their own investigation into the alleged cult.
That federal investigation is ongoing. The investigation into Schneiderman’s own alleged crimes began Monday night.