For anyone who’d cherished the impossible dream that Milo Yiannopoulos would suffer for his sins, his triumphant resurrection in recent days must come as an irksome and chastening spectacle.
It turns out that even Yiannopoulos’s most hateful outrages—bursts of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and self-loathing homophobia, delivered with campy performance skills, preening contempt and a posh English accent—are irresistible catnip to the media-political complex.
Even Bill Maher—who absorbed a raft of criticism for his kid-glove treatment of Yiannopoulos during his Feb. 17 appearance on Maher’s Real Time HBO show—is courting the alt-right’s most notorious troll for a return engagement.
Yet a few days after Yiannopoulos’s lovefest with Maher five months ago, it all came crashing down. He was forced to resign in disgrace from his nominal technology editor job at Breitbart News, lost a $255,000 book deal, and was disinvited from a prominent speaking role at the Conservative Political Action Conference—all for defending the criminal practice of pedophilia on an all but forgotten podcast.
But now, after an indecent interval, Yiannopoulos is back with a vengeance. (After agreeing to—and then declining—an interview request, then offering to respond to written questions through his personal publicist, he provided no comment for this story.)
“The right is now willing to embrace and celebrate anybody who’s willing to back Trump, and Milo’s a hateful, stupid, British, pederasty-loving version of Ann Coulter,” said a former Breitbart staffer who asked not to be named so as not to become a target of “Milo’s army of Twitter trolls and Facebook trolls.”
“The difference is that Ann uses shock value in pursuit of substance, and for Milo, it’s shock value in pursuit of Milo,” this staffer said.
Now Yiannopoulos is busily promoting Dangerous, a memoir-meets-manifesto that he self-published on Amazon, where it has reportedly sold 100,000 copies in pre-publication orders after Simon & Schuster’s conservative Threshold Editions imprint canceled it amid the pedophilia controversy.
Yiannopoulos filed a $10 million lawsuit last Friday against the CBS-owned publisher, which called the suit “publicity driven and entirely without merit.”
Meanwhile, his recently formed and mysteriously funded live entertainment company, Milo Inc., has spent lavishly on advertising, including a huge billboard in Manhattan’s Times Square neighborhood and on Facebook.
The Washington, D.C., Metro authorities removed the Dangerous ads from the underground stations after protests from offended commuters.
Milo Inc. also financed a garish New York book party July 6 that featured frolicking, g-stringed strippers shedding head-to-toe black burkas, yarmulke-wearing dancing midgets sporting “Ben Shapiro” nametags (a symbolic assault on one of Yiannopoulos’ more vehement conservative antagonists, a display dubbed “anti-Semitic” by CNN anchor Jake Tapper), lusty chants of “Fuck CNN!” from the millennial wingnut partygoers, and a smugly grinning guest appearance by avaricious pharma exec Martin Shkreli, currently on trial on federal charges of securities fraud.
Milo Inc. is widely believed in conservative circles to have been bankrolled—to the tune of $12 million, Yiannopoulus has claimed—by the right-wing billionaire Mercer family (a major backer of Breitbart).
While he refuses to identify his financial angels, a story Thursday in BuzzFeed relies on leaked internal documents to identify computer tycoon Bob Mercer and his daughter Rebekah as Yiannopolous’ sugar daddies.
“Rebekah Mercer loves Milo,” the story quotes “a source familiar with both Yiannopoulos and the Mercers.” “They always stood behind him, and their support never wavered.”
Notably, Yiannopoulos has also been restored to the warm embrace of the Donald Trump-loving, angry-populist Breitbart News, whose editor in chief, Alexander Marlow, was at pains to call his pedophilia endorsement—when it emerged last February— “indefensible,” “upsetting,” “appalling,” and “troubling.”
In recent days, Breitbart has not only featured a lengthy excerpt of Dangerous—from a chapter titled “Why Muslims Hate Me”—but the website has also covered the twists and turns of Yiannapolous’ glorious book tour with a celebratory diligence normally reserved for the achievements of the Trump White House.
What’s more, Marlow devoted the July 5 installment of “Breitbart Daily,” the radio show he hosts on SiriusXM, to a sycophantic chat with his once-shamed former employee.
“You’re one of the true iconoclasts out here,” Marlow gushed, humorously dubbing Yiannopoulos a “fabulous supervillain.”
“He never left the good graces of Breitbart,” said former Breitbart writer Lee Stranahan, who quit the website in March in a bitter dispute with Marlow, and was among half a dozen employees who voiced repulsion at Yiannopoulos’ comments.
Several Breitbart employees had reportedly threatened to quit if Yiannopoulos remained. “Like a lot of stuff associated with Milo,” Stranahan said, “his resignation was a publicity stunt.”
Stranahan, the father of six, added: “As a person who’s got a lot of kids and teenagers, it’s not cool.”
During his April 2016 sit-down with “Drunken Peasants” podcaster Joe Rogan—a video surfaced by a right-leaning group after Yiannopoulos was invited by CPAC’s Matt Schlapp to speak at the prestigious conclave—Breitbart’s then-tech editor had praised the personal “discovery” value of underage sex between boys and men.
“When I was 14, trust me, I was the predator,” he claimed, describing his own sexual initiation by a Catholic priest. “I’m grateful for Father Michael,” he added. “I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him.”
At his Feb. 21 press conference as the scandal was exploding, Yiannopolous offered a half-hearted apology, claiming that he had been a childhood victim of sexual abuse and he was “disgusted and horrified by pedophilia.” But even as he tried to undo the damage, he couldn’t resist adding that child molestation “is simply not the worst thing that has ever happened. To go bankrupt is worse.”
Marlow didn’t respond to an email from The Daily Beast, but Breitbart spokesperson Chad Wilkinson said: “Alex accepted Milo’s resignation but they remained friends”—meeting for lunch last month in Los Angeles when Marlow made his own appearance on Bill Maher’s show.
“Alex was critical of Milo. He said so. He was very vocal about it,” Wilkinson added—notwithstanding that Marlow, in the same breath, had extravagantly praised Yiannopolous’s contribution to Breitbart. “Milo resigned for his own reasons. And it probably made sense for Milo to separate from the company. His brand is becoming bigger and bigger, so it worked out very well, and we wish him nothing but the best of luck.”
As for Yiannopoulos’ sudden omnipresence on Breitbart, “Milo Inc. did a very big advertising buy,” Wilkinson said, declining to specify the dollar amount. “We’re going to take the money. We’re going to take the money from pretty much anybody. And Milo continues to be newsworthy, so we’ll cover him. He’s being interviewed all over the place… I don’t think he’s getting any special treatment.”
Wilkinson, meanwhile, tried to dismiss a recent report by BuzzFeed—based largely on internal emails and other documents—that Marlow had helped his disgraced former employee launch his private company and was designated to receive a $60,000 fee and the title of editorial director.
“Alex is not an employee and doesn’t work for him,” Wilkinson said, calling a spread sheet containing Marlow’s prospective title and compensation “Milo’s wish list.” (Yiannapoulos once infamously referred to media reporter Joe Bernstein, the author of the BuzzFeed story, as a “a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pig shit media Jew.”
“My understanding is there was a deal in place to promote his book when he left,” said the former Breitbart staffer. “They would have kept him on—but it got a little too hot.”