Conservative media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who faced a torrent of outrage over the weekend after a video emerged in which he defends sexual relationships between men and boys as young as 13, quit as a senior editor at Breitbart News Tuesday.
“Breitbart News has stood by me when others caved,” Yiannopoulos said in a statement. “I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues’ important reporting, so today I am resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately. This decision is mine alone.”
The decision came one day after Yiannopoulos, whose work has offended women, Muslims, and blacks, was disinvited from this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, and publisher Simon & Schuster dropped plans to publish his book in response to the video, which was leaked on Twitter by the Reagan Battalion, a conservative blog.
In a news conference Tuesday, Yiannopoulos denied that he approved of pedophilia and voiced his “disgust at adults who sexually abused minors,’’ according to a copy of the text he planned to read at the gathering that was posted on his Facebook page. “I do not believe sex with 13-year-olds is okay. When I mention the number 13, I was talking about myself, and the age I lost my own virginity.’’
He went on to accept some responsibility for inciting the controversy but ultimately blamed a “cynical media’’ that conspired to bring him down.
In his opening remarks, Yiannopoulos describes himself as “a child abuse victim,’’ saying that “[b]etween the ages of 13 and 16 two men touched me in ways they should not have. One of these men was a priest’’ — a fact he jokes about on the video, along with later saying that some “relationships between younger boys and older men . . . have helped those young boys discover who they are.’’
He said Tuesday that he came to use “black comedy, gallows humor and love of shock value’’ as ways to deal with his experiences.
He also admitted that he was “guilty of imprecise language’’ in using the word “boy’’ instead of “young man’’ and apologized for any hurt he may have caused other abuse victims.
“But’’ he said, “let’s be clear about what is happening here. This is a cynical media witch hunt from people who don’t care about children. They care about destroying me and my career. . . . They know that although I made some outrageous statements, I’ve never done anything wrong.’’
Yiannopoulos noted that the “videos have been out there for more than a year. The media held this story back because they don’t care about victims, they only care about bringing me down.’’
Little is known about the Reagan Battalion, which tweeted out the 2016 video interview that took place on a podcast called “The Drunken Peasants.” The Reagan Battalion opposed Yiannopoulos’s appearance at CPAC and identifies itself on its Twitter page as a “source for news, information, commentary, from a conservative perspective.’’
During his news conference, Yiannopoulos said that he was working on a “new, independently-funded media venture and a live tour in the coming weeks.’’
He also suggested that other companies had expressed interest in his book, which was slated for release June 13, and he was confident that the work would be published, promising to donate 10 percent of royalties to child sex-abuse charities.
Simon & Schuster had faced an intense backlash from the literary community over its decision to offer Yiannopoulos a reported $250,000 book contract.
It was unclear whether Yiannopoulos had received any money from that deal or whether he would have to return it.
John Taylor “Ike’’ Williams, a Boston literary agent and veteran publishing lawyer who in the past has represented Little, Brown, said based on his lengthy experience with book contracts that Yiannopoulos likely would’ve received no more than about a third of the total, with a second third coming after the manuscript was accepted and the final portion after the hardcover.
He said that if Simon & Schuster had ended the contract recouping any advance money could be difficult.
Despite the travails of the past few days, Yiannopoulos remained defiant at the end of his statement. “Don’t think for a moment that this will stop me being as offensive, provocative and outrageously funny as I want. . . . I’m proud to be a warrior for free speech and creative expression.’’
Paul S. Makishima can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.