Milo Yiannopoulos Resigns From Breitbart After Underage Sex Comments

Feb 21, 2017
Originally published on February 21, 2017 8:09 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Milo Yiannopoulos has always courted controversy. And now he is being consumed by it. In just 48 hours, the provocateur has lost a major book contract and a high-profile speaking gig. And this afternoon, he resigned from his job at Breitbart News. This was all after a videotape surfaced of him defending pedophilia. As NPR's David Folkenflik reminds us, Yiannopoulos has said plenty of offensive things before now.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The talent that made Milo Yiannopoulos appealing to a certain strain of conservative is what made him appalling for a lot of other people. That would be his ability to offend for sport while professing a principled cause, as he did last weekend on HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

MILO YIANNOPOULOS: All I care about is free speech and free expression. I want people to be able to be, do and say anything.

FOLKENFLIK: As it happens, he takes that as license to repeatedly jab people who are not white, male or Christian. Twitter banned Yiannopoulos last year for stirring up a racist social-media campaign against a black comedian who was in the all-female version of "Ghostbusters." Yiannopoulos repeated slurs against her this weekend on HBO.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

YIANNOPOULOS: I do not accept that a Hollywood - you know, that the star of a Hollywood blockbuster - that an A-list mega celebrity is sitting in a Hollywood mansion, crying over mean words on the internet. Get over it.

FOLKENFLIK: Yiannopoulos, raised Catholic, often invokes his partial Jewish heritage as he celebrates the so-called alt-right, a movement that claims a smothering political correctness has seized the country and which draws many racists and anti-Semites.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YIANNOPOULOS: Most of the generation Trump - the alt-right people, the people who like me - they're not anti-Semites. They don't care about Jews. I mean they may have some assumptions about Jews. They may have some prejudice about Jews that the Jews run everything. Well, we do.

FOLKENFLIK: This from an interview with the podcaster Dave Rubin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YIANNOPOULOS: The Jews run all the banks. Well, we do. The Jews run the media. Well, we do. You know, I mean they're right about all that stuff.

FOLKENFLIK: In the same interview, Yiannopoulos defended the online hounding of Jewish journalists as fun. On Twitter, some alt-right activists tweeted at Jewish reporters and Trump critics with pictures of ovens and concentration camp survivors to invoke the Holocaust. Until now, Yiannopoulos has had powerful supporters, including several Fox News commentators and President Trump's senior political adviser, Stephen Bannon, who is Breitbart's former executive chairman.

Trump himself threatened on Twitter to cancel federal funding for the University of California, Berkeley, when a riot forced the cancellation of a planned talk by Yiannopoulos. His words finally caught up with him - these from an online video chat given wide exposure over the weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YIANNOPOULOS: Some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming-of-age relationships, the relationships in which those older men help those young boys to discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and...

FOLKENFLIK: Two participants objected that it sounded as though Yiannopoulos would've had no problem with the pedophilia that occurred in the Catholic Church.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YIANNOPOULOS: And do you know what? I'm grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn't...

FOLKENFLIK: Yiannopoulos said the same thing 10 months ago on another podcast. Matthew Schlapp, chairman of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, cancelled Yiannopoulos's speech and told Fox News he couldn't defend those remarks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATTHEW SCHLAPP: It certainly sounded to us that he was trying to mainstream something as offensive as pedophilia. And we don't - although there are a lot of political disagreements that happen on the CPAC stage...

FOLKENFLIK: Yiannopoulos praised himself repeatedly at a press conference this afternoon but said he made a poor choice of words.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YIANNOPOULOS: This is about me apologizing for saying things I did not mean.

FOLKENFLIK: Yiannopoulos said this afternoon he's not done. He says he's starting a new media company and that his book will come out, just not from Simon & Schuster. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE KNIFE SONG, "HEARTBEATS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.