Milo Yiannopoulos, the incendiary writer and commentator who helped make Breitbart News a leading organ of the âalt-right,â resigned from the news organization Tuesday after a video of him endorsing pedophilia resurfaced online over the weekend.
Yiannopoulos â known simply as MILO in Breitbartâs own coverage of him â has been a flame-throwing provocateur whose writing has offended women, Muslims, blacks and gay people ever since former Breitbart executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon hired him as a senior editor in 2014.
Bannon, now President Trumpâs senior adviser, championed the British-born Yiannopoulosâs inflammatory commentary and promoted him as a conservative truth-teller and champion of free speech. In turn, his popularity helped raise Breitbartâs profile among Trumpâs supporters and the âalt-right,â a vaguely defined collection of nationalists, anti-immigration proponents and anti-establishment conservatives. Adherents of the alt-right are known for espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view.
âBreitbart News has stood by me when others caved. They have allowed me to carry conservative and libertarian ideas to communities that would otherwise never have heard them,â Yiannopoulos said in a statement. âThey have been a significant factor in my success. Iâm grateful for that freedom and for the friendships I forged there.â
âI would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleaguesâ important reporting, so today I am resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately. This decision is mine alone,â he added.
âMilo Yiannopoulosâs bold voice has sparked much-needed debate on important cultural topics confronting universities, the LGBTQ community, the press, and the tech industry,â the publication said in a statement Tuesday. It said Yiannopoulos decided to resign Tuesday morning and âwe accepted his resignation.â
As recently as last week, Breitbart editor Alexander Marlow called Yiannopoulos âthe No.Â 1 free speech warrior of his generation in America at the momentâ in an interview.
But Yiannopoulousâs views on pedophilia apparently went too far even for Breitbart.
On his SiriusXM satellite radio program on Tuesday, Marlow called Yiannopoulosâs comments âindefensibleâ and âappalling.â He said, âItâs all very upsetting and something we take very seriously at Breitbart,â but he made no comment about his future with the site.
Breitbart was under pressure to take action against Yiannopoulos, 32, from its own staff, which had threatened an internal revolt if he wasnât fired or disciplined, according to people familiar with the discussions.
In a video interview early last year, Yiannopoulos bantered with the hosts of a podcast called âThe Drunken Peasantsâ for nearly three hours. As the lengthy discussion veered into pedophilia, he condoned sexual relations with boys as young as 13 and joked about a sexual encounter he said he had with a Catholic priest as a teenager.
âYouâre misunderstanding what pedophilia means,â he told the hosts. âPedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty.â He adds that consent by minors is âarbitrary and oppressive.â
A group called the Reagan Battalion was among those calling attention to the interview to highlight its opposition to Yiannopoulosâs speaking role at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the Washington area.
The reemergence of the video over the weekend triggered a cascade of adverse consequences for Yiannopoulos.
First, CPACâs organizer, the American Conservative Union, rescinded its invitation to him as a conference speaker. The groupâs chairman said in a statement that the organization found his comments âdisturbingâ and the video âoffensive.â
Then Simon & Schuster canceled an agreement to publish Yiannopoulosâs forthcoming memoir, âDangerous,â for which it paid him a $250,000 advance. The publisher said it decided to cancel the book â which had drawn protests before the pedophilia flap arose â âafter careful consideration.â
Finally, about a half-dozen Breitbart employees told Marlow, the editor, that they would quit in protest if Yiannopoulos wasnât fired or disciplined, according to people familiar with the discussions who werenât authorized to comment publicly. Breitbart hasnât made any public comments since the issue arose.
Yiannopoulos, meanwhile, defended himself on Facebook on Sunday and Monday as the tide of controversy rose.
âI do not support pedophilia. Period,â he wrote. âIt is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst. There are selectively edited videos doing the rounds, as part of a coordinated effort to discredit me from establishment Republicans, that suggest I am soft on the subject.â
In an update Monday, he wrote: âIâm partly to blame. My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous. But I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, âadvocacy.â I deeply regret that. People deal with things from their past in different ways.â
He added, âI am certainly guilty of imprecise language, which I regret.â
Yiannopoulosâs speaking tour has sparked protests on college campuses for the past year, including one this month at the University of California at Berkeley that turned violent. In reaction, Trump threatened on Twitter to cut off federal funds to the school if it âdoes not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view.â