Milo Yiannopoulos resigned Tuesday from Breitbart News, the right-wing nationalist site where he’s served as a senior editor and high-profile contributor.
“Breitbart News has stood by me when others caved,” Yiannopoulos said in a statement. “They have allowed me to carry conservative and libertarian ideas to communities that would otherwise never had heard them. They have been a significant factor in my success. I’m grateful for that freedom and for the friendships I forged there.”
He said it would be “wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues’ important reporting” and added that the decision to leave was his own.
Yiannopoulos ― a conservative provocateur banned by Twitter and known for mocking Muslims, feminists, transgender people, the Black Lives Matter movement and liberal student activists ― seemed to have finally crossed a line Monday with a major publisher and a conservative organization that was giving him a platform.
His apparent defense of sexual relationships between men and boys as young as 13 during an interview last year on the Drunken Peasants podcast began circulating recently and led to the quick unraveling of a career built on outrage and offensive behavior.
The publisher Simon & Schuster, which had recently awarded Yiannopoulos a $250,000 book contract, announced it was canceling the project. The American Conservative Union, which had booked him to speak at this week’s influential CPAC conference, disinvited him.
“I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim,” Yiannopoulos wrote Monday night on Facebook amid the fallout. “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.”
Yiannopoulos wrote that being a child abuse victim himself led him “to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous.” On the podcast, he joked about how a priest taught him to give oral sex while he was a minor.
During a Tuesday press conference, Yiannopoulos reiterated that he does “not support child abuse ... a disgusting crime of which I’ve been a victim.” He apologized for using the word “boy” on the podcast when referring to young men of consenting age, and to other abuse victims who may have interpreted his remarks “as flippant or uncaring.”
And yet Yiannopoulos wasn’t simply contrite. He said he’d “never stop making jokes about taboo subjects,” boasted that other publishers were interested in his book and suggested this latest firestorm would only be good for him in the long run.
“I don’t think this has done any harm for my profile,” Yiannopoulos said. “I think more people are going to read what I have to say on the subject of free speech.”
Yiannopoulos said he planned to start a new media venture, but that it would not “go head-to-head with Breitbart.” He praised Alex Marlow, the site’s editor-in-chief, as the “most gifted editor of his generation.”
Marlow said Tuesday that Yiannopoulos’ comments were “absolutely indefensible” and “appalling,” but didn’t announce any suspension or firing as a result. Yiannopoulos announced his departure in a press release just before speaking before dozens of journalists.
Though Marlow condemned Yiannapoulos’ comments, he also suggested that the recent resurfacing of the 2016 video interview was part of a “coordinated hit” by forces on the left, the Republican establishment and the Never Trump movement ― all three of which are recurring targets of Breitbart News.
Those anti-Yiannopoulos forces, Marlow said, “waited for a time when they could do the most damage to his career and to Breitbart, and by proxy, people like Trump and [Steve] Bannon,” the former Breitbart chairman and current chief strategist to the president.
Yiannopoulos echoed that suspicion Tuesday afternoon.
“Very obviously, this was a highly coordinated and very well-planned and well-funded attack on me,” he said, adding that he was the target of a “politically motivated witch hunt.”
“People knew about this stuff a year ago and didn’t print anything,” he said. “They waited until the most damaging possible moment. And everybody knows that. I think America will judge accordingly.”
This story has been updated with additional comment from Yiannopoulos.