Gay alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has been disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference after videos surfaced of him defending sex between men and boys and making light of the sexual assault of women.
The videos have also cost him a book contract with Simon & Schuster and are threatening his position with conservative website Breitbart.
The videos were posted on Twitter by a group called the Reagan Battalion, which “bills itself as a conservative news source,” USA Today reports. Yiannopoulos says his comments in the videos were taken out of context and misunderstood, and that certain people don’t get his “humor” and are trying to discredit him.
CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp announced Monday that organizers have rescinded their invitation to Yiannopoulos to speak at the conference, which opens Wednesday. It’s one of the nation’s biggest annual gatherings of the far right.
Yiannopoulos’s efforts to address the issues raised by the videos have been “insufficient,” Schlapp said in a statement. “It is up to him to answer the tough questions and we urge him to immediately further address these disturbing comments,” Schlapp continued.
The first video, which the Reagan Battalion shared over the weekend, is from a 2016 interview on a podcast called The Drunken Peasants. In it Yiannopoulos denounced the “arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent” and said, “People are messy and complex, and actually in the homosexual world particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, those coming-of-age relationships, the relationships in which those older men have helped those young boys to discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, a rock, where they can’t speak to their parents.”
He also said such relationships do not constitute pedophilia. “Pedophilia is not an attraction to somebody who is 13 years old who is sexually mature,” he said. “Pedophilia is an attraction to children who have not reached puberty.” And after describing an experience that the host said sounded like molestation by a priest, Yiannopoulos said, “I’m grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him.”
In response to the outcry over the video, Yiannopoulos posted what he called a “note for idiots” on Facebook. “I do not support pedophilia. Period,” he wrote. “It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst. There are selectively edited videos doing the rounds, as part of a co-ordinated effort to discredit me from establishment Republicans, that suggest I am soft on the subject. If it somehow comes across (through my own sloppy phrasing or through deceptive editing) that I meant any of the ugly things alleged, let me set the record straight: I am completely disgusted by the abuse of children.”
He said he should not have used the word “boy” and does not think the age of consent should be lowered; it is 16 in the U.K., where he is from. “I was talking about my own relationship when I was 17 with a man who was 29,” he wrote.
He also said he was indeed a victim of sexual abuse by a clergy member, but added, “If I choose to deal in an edgy way on an internet livestream with a crime I was the victim of that’s my prerogative. It’s no different to gallows humor from AIDS sufferers.”
In the second video, posted today by the Reagan Battalion, he said that when women discuss sexual assault, it’s “really just a way for women to tell you that they’ve been hit on.” It came from an interview last July with right-wing host Joe Rogan.
In a Monday interview with USA Today, Yiannopoulos said he hadn’t yet seen that video but believed he knew which one it was. “Obviously I don’t believe that’s the case in every instance and obviously, you know, it’s part of a humorous routine that I do,” he told the paper.
“I appreciate that my usual sort of British sarcasm and provocation and humor and all the rest of it probably came across as very flippant in some of the conversations that are floating around,” he added.
Ned Ryun, a board member for the American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC, said Yiannopoulos should not be allowed to appear at the event and that the board had not been consulted about the matter. “While I’m all for free speech, there is such a thing as vile, hateful speech that does not deserve a platform,” he tweeted.
As late as Sunday night, Schlapp was tweeting in support of Yiannopoulos, saying that even though he is “radioactive,” he is “fighting back” against attacks on conservative speech. Schlapp has now apparently changed his mind, though, making the cancellation announcement shortly after Yiannopoulos’s USA Today interview appeared. President Donald Trump, whom Yiannopoulos supported in the election, Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus all scheduled to speak at the conference. Bannon formerly ran the conservative website Breitbart, where Yiannopoulos is an editor.
From another part of the political spectrum, Vox contributor German Lopez denounced Yiannopoulos for spreading a destructive myth. “One of the reasons Yiannopoulos’s latest comments are so abhorrent is that he, as a gay man, is tapping into a pernicious myth that surrounds the LGBTQ community: the idea that gay men are sexual deviants who approve of all sorts of abhorrent behavior, including pedophilia and child sexual abuse,” Lopez wrote. “Yiannopoulos, perhaps inadvertently, played into this myth by arguing that there’s an upside to sexual molestation.”
Later Monday, Simon & Schuster announced that it is canceling a book contract with Yiannopoulos, The New York Times reports. He signed a contract with the publisher in December for an nonfiction book to be titled Dangerous, and many denounced Simon & Schuster for giving him a platform. “In a terse statement late Monday, the publisher said it was canceling the book 'after careful consideration,'” the Times notes. Breitbart officials also are reportedly considering severing ties with Yiannopoulos.
This is just the latest in a long string of controversies in which Yiannopoulos has been embroiled. Last year he was banned from Twitter after inciting his followers to tweet disparaging comments, many of which were racist or sexist, about actress Leslie Jones. And his speaking tour of college campuses has brought out protesters; an appearance at the University of California, Berkeley, was recently canceled after protests turned violent, leading Yiannopoulos to say he is being silenced. In an appearance Friday on Real Time With Bill Maher, Yiannopoulos made numerous derogatory comments about women and transgender people.
Yiannopoulos said he will hold a press conference Tuesday to address his current situation, according to the Times.