As British media personality Milo Yiannopoulos’ star began to rise, he suddenly found sympathizers in some pretty unlikely places, including Silicon Valley, Hollywood and academia.
But one of the most striking groups of people who reached out to the former tech editor of Breitbart News with story tips and suggestions about how to disparage women were the members of the liberal media who were looking to stir up sexist controversy, just not on their own platforms.
Emails obtained by Buzzfeed News and published in a bombshell report on Thursday highlight some of the unlikely characters who helped feed Yiannopoulos’ rise through anti-Semitism, racism and sexism ― a rise that Steve Bannon, Breitbart’s executive chairman and former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, personally shaped.
Yiannopoulos belonged to an email group that mocked social justice stories on the internet, Buzzfeed said. Figures like conservative pundit Ann Coulter were part of the group. But so was Mitchell Sunderland, a senior staff writer and former managing editor at Broadly, Vice’s channel devoted to women’s issues.
“Please mock this fat feminist,” Sunderland reportedly wrote in a May 2016 email to Yiannopoulos. He was talking about Lindy West, a New York Times columnist who writes about weight issues. He also sent a video of an abortion rights campaign to Tim Gionet, an alt-right activist who worked with Yiannopoulos on his “Dangerous Faggot” tour. Breitbart would later publish an article mocking the abortion rights group involved.
“We are shocked and disappointed by this highly inappropriate and unprofessional conduct,” a Vice spokesperson said in a statement. “We just learned about this and have begun a formal review into the matter.”
Tech reporter Dan Lyons would also reach out to Yiannopoulos, according to Buzzfeed, persistently inquiring about the gender assigned at birth to both Zoë Quinn, a video game developer and GamerGate target, and Amber Discko, the founder of the feminist website Femsplain.
“Is Zoe Quinn a biological female or trans?” he wrote in September 2015.
“She is a girl. A hideous girl but a girl,” Yiannopoulos responded.
Lyons insisted Thursday that he apologized to both Discko and Quinn “at length” before the Buzzfeed piece was published. Quinn disputed the claim minutes later.
And former Slate tech writer David Auerbach allegedly passed on information about the relationship status of Anita Sarkeesian, another GamerGate target. He contended that everything Buzzfeed wrote about him is “categorically false.”
The report also delves into Yiannopoulos’ attempts to interview a “legit racist,” in the words of Breitbart’s Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow, on his podcast, as well as his attempts to defend gas chamber jokes.
“I have said in the past that I find humor in breaking taboos and laughing at things that people tell me are forbidden to joke about,” Yiannopoulos told Buzzfeed in a statement. “But everyone who knows me also knows I’m not a racist. As someone of Jewish ancestry, I of course condemn racism in the strongest possible terms.”