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Controversial right-wing figure Milo Yiannopoulos will no longer be speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which kicks off in Maryland this week.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, announced the decision to cancel Yiannopoulos’ invitation after a conservative media group highlighted publically available comments the right-wing provocateur made about pedophilia and the age of consent among adult men and boys.
Schlapp wrote in a statement emailed to the Daily Dot by ACU’s spokesman:
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.
We realize that Mr. Yiannopoulos has responded on Facebook, but it is insufficient. It is up to him to answer the tough questions and we urge him to immediately further address these disturbing comments.
We initially extended the invitation knowing that the free speech issue on college campuses is a battlefield where we need brave, conservative standard-bearers.
Over 100 people will speak at CPAC starting on Wednesday. We give great thought to who is invited to speak, but the CPAC platform is not an endorsement of everything a speaker says or does. We continue to believe that CPAC is a constructive forum for controversies and disagreements among conservatives, however there is no disagreement among our attendees on the evils of sexual abuse of children.
Yiannopolous issued a second statement on Monday afternoon at approximately the same time news of his rescinded CPAC invitation hit.
“I do not support pedophilia. Period. It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst,” he wrote. “There are selectively edited videos doing the rounds, as part of a coordinated effort to discredit me from establishment Republicans, that suggest I am soft on the subject.”
CPAC announced over the weekend that Yiannopoulos would address its annual three-day conference, which begins later this week. A Breitbart News tech editor, Yiannopoulos has been criticized for pushing Islamophobic, anti-women, and white nationalist worldviews that align with a certain wing of the fractured alt-right movement. He has repeatedly denied being a part of the alt-right.
Over the past 48 hours, conservatives and free-speech defenders began clashing over whether it was wise for far-right figure Yiannopoulos to address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The debate abruptly halted after old footage from radio shows and podcasts in which Yiannopoulos appeared as a guest was used by his critics to accuse the British right-wing provocateur of defending pedophilia.
The Reagan Battalion, a conservative media group, on Sunday and Monday posted video footage from a television interview during which Yiannopoulos describes sexual relations he had with a Catholic priest as a young teenager.
“But you know what? I’m grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him,” Yiannopoulos says in the interview, using a euphemism for male oral sex.
The Reagan Battalion also tweeted videos of older interviews in which Yiannopoulos discussed sexual consent laws and sexual assault.
Yiannopoulous discusses the incident with the Catholic priest in a 2015 interview with comedian Joe Rogan. He calls the Catholic priest a “terrible person” but denies that what occurred between them was molestation. Yiannopoulous—a long-time hater of what he deems to be liberal political correct “policing” that has led to women and people of color constantly “playing the victim” when it comes to rape or police violence—then goes on to play devil’s advocate with Rogan on the idea of sexual attraction between adult men and teenage women.
“So, you’re saying you’ve never seen a 15-year-old girl, at any point in your life, that you thought was hot?” Yiannopoulos asked.
“Yeah, when I was 15!” Rogan replied. “I’m not retarded, dude.”
“No, when you were 25 or 30, you’ve never seen girls you thought were hot?” Yiannopoulos asked again.
“No, I thought they were little kids!” Rogan said.
Yiannopoulos—who has been banned from Twitter for staging online harassment campaigns on innocent people—took to Facebook on Sunday to defend himself against what he feels are unjustified attacks.
In his Facebook post, Yiannopoulos claimed he outed three pedophiles during his career as a journalist. Yiannopoulos—who founded the Kernel, a publication the Daily Dot acquired in 2014—cited stories he wrote for the publication on Labor Party political strategist Luke Bozier in December 2012. A Kernel story by Yiannopoulos broke the news that an anonymous hacker accused Bozier of soliciting photos from underage girls.
Charges against Bozier were dropped five months later after police realized that he had viewed photos of teenage girls in bikinis but nothing more explicit, a detail Yiannopoulos does not mention.
In his Sunday Facebook statement, Yiannopoulos inaccurately accuses Bozier of pedophilia for interactions that involved 16-year-olds—who are past the U.K. age of legal consent—and then goes on to use that exact same argument against those who are accusing him of pedophilia. Pedophilia is classified by psychiatrists as sexual attraction towards pre-pubescent children.
“I did say that there are relationships between younger men and older men that can help a young gay man escape from a lack of support or understanding at home. That’s perfectly true and every gay man knows it. But I was not talking about anything illegal, and I was not referring to pre-pubescent boys,” wrote Yiannopolos on Facebook.
Miscategorization or not, the damage appeared to have already been done.
Conservative figures that ranged from Jonah Goldberg of the National Review to Tea Party operative Brendan Steinhauser immediately criticized Schlapp for ACU’s decision to book Yiannopoulos. Conservative journalist S.E. Cupp tweeted that the booking of Yiannopoulos was a sign that CPAC had lost its way.
Schlapp initially took a “wait and see” approach to Yiannopoulos before dropping his speech on Monday.
The CPAC convention begins on Wednesday at the Gaylord National Harbor in Maryland, and its confirmed list of speakers include President Donald Trump; Vice President Mike Pence; a range of conservative governors such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (an outspoken critic of Trump); White House chief strategist (and former Breitbart executive chairman) Steve Bannon; Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD); and a range of other strange bedfellows and notorious rivals within the conservative movement.
Even without Yiannopoulos, it’s sure to be quite the show.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.