Milo Yiannopoulos, the conservative provocateur and face of the alt-right, has been disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference after a recording surfaced where he appeared to defend pedophilia.
"Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference," American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a statement.
"We realize that Mr. Yiannopoulous [sic] has responded on Facebook, but it is insufficient," the statement continued.
Reached immediately after the decision, Yiannopoulos had no comment on the cancellation, but just hours before the announcement, Yiannopoulos expressed regret for the comments to The Daily Beast in a statement and an interview, saying the comments were in no way meant to condone predatory behavior toward children.
"I would like to restate my utter disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors. I am horrified by pedophilia and I have devoted large portions of my career as a journalist to exposing child abusers,” he said in an interview with The Daily Beast. "My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted on this subject, no matter how outrageous, but I understand that my usual blend of sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy.”
He continued, "Anyone who suggests I turn a blind eye to illegal activity or to the abuse of minors is unequivocally wrong. I am implacably opposed to the normalization of pedophilia and I will continue to report and speak accordingly."
The comments come after a January 2016 podcast surfaced which included an interview with Yiannopoulos in which he appears to defend relationships between men and 13 year old boys, criticizes the age of consent and makes light of molestation by Catholic priests. The podcast has incited a feeding frenzy with many noting the schadenfreude of the situation, given that just two days earlier Yiannopoulos called himself a “virtuous troll” on Real Time with Bill Maher and smeared transgender people by saying they’re disproportionately involved in sex crimes without noting that it is because they are disproportionately the victims.
In the episode of The Drunken Peasants podcast, which warns listeners at the onset it’s “designed to be amusing and entertaining and thus we engage in satirical comments, exaggerations, and even dirty jokes,” during a conversation about the age of consent, Yiannopoulos joked about his relationship with “Father Michael” who he said he “ wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him.”
The conservation shifted away from priests and to what constituted a consensual relationship.
“We are talking about 13-25, 13-28, these things do happen perfectly consensually,” he said.
“We get hung up on abuse, and this is a controversial view which I accept, but we get hung up on this child abuse stuff, to the point where we are heavily policing even relationships between consenting adults, you know grad students and professors at universities,” Yiannopoulos said.
“I think the law is probably about right, that is probably roughly the right age,” he said. “I think it’s probably about ok, but there are certainly people who are capable of giving consent at a younger age, I certainly consider myself to be one of them. “
“I think it particularly happens in the gay world, by the way, in many cases those relationships with old men… this is one of the reasons I hate the left, this one size fits all policing of culture, this arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent which totally destroys the understanding that many of us have the complexities and subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships. People are messy and complex.”
Later in the podcast, Yiannopoulos continues, explaining to the hosts that he was not defending pedophilia.
“Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old, who is sexually mature,” he said. “Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty, pedophilia is attraction to people who don’t have functioning sex organs yet, who have not gone through puberty who are too young to be about to understand their bodies. That is not what we are talking about.”
He concluded, “You don’t understand what pedophilia is if you think I’m defending it, because I’m certainly not.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Yiannopoulos said he was recounting his own experiences and wasn’t arguing for a change in the age of consent or for acceptance of pedophila.
“I've noticed people talking a lot about the age 13 in relation to this footage. I believe I was talking specifically about myself,” he said. “That's the age at which I lost my virginity.”
He said, “I did not mean to suggest that adults having relationships with 13-year-olds is something to be encouraged, obviously. Again, I regret my imprecise language.”
The comments made last year resurfaced after Yiannopoulos was invited to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference—an invitation that has sparked controversy both inside and outside the American Conservative Union, which holds the annual event.
Several members of the group’s board expressed outrage they were not consulted before the invitation to the British provocateur was extended. Two sources familiar with the decision had told The Daily Beast that they expecting a vote to take place on Wednesday morning (during a board meeting at the National Harbor hotel where CPAC is held) regarding what to do about Yiannopoulos’s inclusion. The meeting of the ACU board is expected to include roughly 25-30 board members—many of whom are furious with ACU chair Schlapp's decision.
However, it appears no Milo-related vote will be necessary. The pressure that was mounting from the ACU board and others was enough to quickly oust Yiannopoulos from the roster of official speakers.
Multiple sources said that Yiannopoulos’s invitation to speak on the mainstage at CPAC caught board members completely off-guard.
Some members were particularly disturbed by the video (that the controversial Breitbart editor keeps claiming is a misleading hatchet job). Other board members’ opposition was triggered by the speaker’s in-your-face, licentiously gay style, which runs contra to their more traditional, Christian-conservative sensibilities. (Remember: it wasn’t long ago that GOProud, the now-defunct conservative gay organization, was shunned from CPAC by the social-conservative elements.)
Others were merely disgusted by his whole alt-right, race-baiting schtick, and turned off by the fact that Yiannopoulos himself says that he doesn’t even consider himself a “conservative,” per se.
"This mental patient enjoys playing footsie with Nazis—I'm not into that, and neither are many on the [ACU] board, it's that simple," one “pissed-off” board member told The Daily Beast on Monday afternoon. “I have made my opinions very clear [internally] and will continue to do so.”
Another board member likened the Milo invite to if CPAC hosted and celebrated “‘Weird Al’ [Yankovic] but if Weird Al kept saying Jews run the media and was some kind of a racist asshole … [Milo] thrives on attention, and only cares about getting attention. And we're giving him a big platform for him to do just that.”
“While I'm all for free speech, there is such a thing as vile, hateful speech that does not deserve a platform,” ACU board member Ned Ryun tweeted on Monday morning. “White supremacy by any other name is still white supremacy. It should be rejected. Not chronicled, not fellow traveled.”
Of course, CPAC hasn’t shied away from controversial, ideological-bogeymen speakers in the past. For instance, Glenn Beck was invited to deliver the keynote address in 2010—back when he was all about calling Obama a racist and comparing him to Hitler.
This is just the latest storm to surround around the 33 year-old Breitbart editor. His national college tour has resulted in riots on several campuses. In one recent event at the University of Wisconsin, Yiannopoulos used his platform to bully a trans student, putting her name and photo onscreen. He also recently cancelled a planned speech at Berkeley after protests.Yiannopoulos rose to prominence as an editor at Breitbart where he used his Twitter account as a platform for harassment. He was inevitably suspended for remarks he made about actress Leslie Jones. Additionally, Yiannopoulos created a grant program for white students to attend college and, as The Daily Beast reported, initially pocketed $100,000 for himself.
Still, while he has dismissed some of these other controversies, this one he said, hit a nerve that should have been left untouched.
“Obviously, I say things for effect sometimes, I suppose given this is something I have made experience with in my life, I felt I had license to treat this in whatever way I wanted, to speak freely about it ,” he said. “And I suppose, what I didn’t anticipate my heavy British sarcasm, obviously the joke about Father Michael was clearly a joke, but for some conservatives I can how that might be very shocking because it would across that was flippancy which on reflection that was unintended.”
— Betsy Woodruff, Gideon Resnick contributed reporting.