Enduring months of scathing criticism, book publisher Simon & Schuster have cancelled the release of book by Breitbart editor and alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos amid controversy over apparently pro-paedophilia remarks he made in an unearthed podcast.
Claiming to be an advocate of free speech, Yiannopoulos has become known for his inflammatory remarks that often target women of colour and transgender people. In his most recently uncovered remarks, the columnist appeared to be endorsing paedophilia as a way for young boys do “discover who they are”.
He rose to notoriety during the Gamergate controversy, and was ultimately banned from Twitter for inciting a wave of racist trolls onto Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.
Nonetheless, Simon & Schuster’s imprint, Threshold Editions, sought to publish the Yiannopoulos’ memoirs. But Yiannopoulos seems to have crossed a line for the publisher, after they stood by their decision to give the controversial columnist a platform in their catalgue for two months.
”After careful consideration, [Simon & Schuster] and its [Threshold Editions] have cancelled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos,” tweeted Simon & Schuster spokesperson Adam Rothberg.
Yiannopoulos responded to the news in two terse statements posted to Facebook.
“They cancelled my book,” he wrote. “I’ve gone through worse. This will not defeat me.”
Yiannopoulos was recently disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference after a podcast emerged in which he appeared to endorse sexual relationships between “younger boys and older men”.
“Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning paedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos,” wrote ACU chair Matt Schlapp.
In the audio, recorded on the Drunken Peasants podcast, Yiannopoulos said young boys “discover who they are” through such relationships. And even if they are sexual in nature can “give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable rock where they can’t speak to their parents”.
“Paedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old, who is sexually mature,” he also said. “Paedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty. Paedophilia is attraction to people who don’t have functioning sex organs yet who have not gone through puberty.”
Yiannopoulos responded to the ACU via Facebook and said he “deeply regret[s]” the way his comments were interpreted, stressing that he is “horrified by pedophilia” and said he has “devoted large portions of my careers as a journalist to exposing child abusers”.
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“I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim,” he added. “My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous. But I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humour might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, ‘advocacy’.”
But the controversy surrounding perhaps the most prominent figure of Breitbart – save for Steve Bannon – has led to the possible exodus of staff of the right-wing publication.
“The fact of the matter is that there’s been so many things that have been objectionable about Milo over the last couple of years, quite frankly. This is something far more sinister,” a senior editor for Breitbart told the DC-area magazine The Washingtonion.
“If the company isn’t willing to act, there are at least half a dozen people who are willing to walk out over it.”
Long before Yiannopoulos was caught making remarks in support of child sex abuse, well known writers withdrew their work from Simon & Schuster over the controversial book deal.
Roxane Gay, the author of Bad Feminist and associate professor of English at Purdue University, pulled the publication of How to be Heard from the publisher’s imprint TED Books.
“I can’t in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo. So I told me agent over the weekend to pull the project,” Dr Gay said. “I was supposed to turn the book in this month and I kept thinking about how egregious it is to give someone like Milo a platform for his blunt, inelegant hate and provocation.”
“And to be clear, this isn’t about censorship. Milo has every right to say what he wants to say, however distasteful I and many others find it to be,” she added.
“He doesn’t have a right to have a book published by a major publisher but he has, in some bizarre twist of fate, been afforded that privilege.”