“Please be respectful,” Milo Yiannopoulos admonished—an irony that was lost on no one but him.
Ignoring a question about his own disrespectful behavior that he apparently didn’t feel like answering, the embattled Donald Trump groupie and alt-right provocateur—who usually baits African Americans, Jews, women, transgender people, and his fellow gay men at his various speaking engagements in a merry tone of preening contempt—presided over a bizarre New York press conference Tuesday afternoon in a low, controlled voice, with a posh English accent that doesn’t quite cover his multitude of sins.
Apparently to enhance the earnest gravity of the occasion—as opposed to his campy, pearl-necklace and bauble-bedecked insolence on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher last Friday—he showed up in a drab navy suit, burgundy tie, and polished black loafers.
After entering the crowded room behind a beefy, earpiece-wearing security man, Yiannopolous, a tall and boyish 33-year-old, removed his wire-rimmed sunglasses and gave his instruction to be respectful in the middle of a somber performance in which he apologized, sort of, for his year-old comments on a podcast that seemed to encourage the idea of adults sexually molesting children.
“I’m a gay man and a child-abuse victim,” he began his presentation, reading from a lengthy statement that attempted to invite sympathy. Yiannopoulous recounted that when he was a boy, “two men touched me in ways they should not have.”
He subsequently misspent his youth, “well into my 20s,” in a haze of “alcohol and nihilistic partying” at night, he testified, never knowing in whose bed he was going to wake up the following afternoon, but also developing a love for “black comedy and gallows humor, and a love of shock value [that] never really went away.”
He wished “to do something good with my life” and discovered the path to that laudable goal in “my usual blend of sassy gay British sarcasm and provocations.”
In what he described as his first, and last, public apology—which he clearly didn’t mean to apply to his unrelenting misogyny and racially charged insults, such as his witless campaign against Ghostbusters star and Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones that got him permanently banned from Twitter—Yiannopoulous insisted that his self-damaging comments “do not reflect my views.”
“We are talking about 13-25, 13-28, these things do happen perfectly consensually,” he had said on an episode of the Drunken Peasants podcast, referring to the appropriate ages of sexual partners. He joked about his own sexual relationship as a 13-year-old with a Catholic priest and added: “I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him.”
At Tuesday’s event, 40-odd reporters were present to hear his complaints and regrets in a rented event space on the 11th floor of a dreary building in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and more than dozen television cameras were trained on him (while a local station actually parked a satellite truck on the street below). Yiannopolous said he is “horrified by that impression” left by those comments that he was advocating pedophilia, and insisted that he is “disgusted and horrified by pedophilia.”
Yet he seemed to backtrack on that sentiment when he pointed out that such abuse “is simply not the worst thing that has ever happened. To go bankrupt is worse,” he declared—assuredly not a reference to the troubled business history of President Trump.
Holding forth for nearly half an hour under a surprisingly muted interrogation by the Fourth Estate, Yiannopoulos blamed everyone but himself for the consequences of his recently excavated pedophilia endorsement: the loss of a $250,000 book deal with Simon & Schuster; the loss of a high-profile speaking gig at CPAC, the nation’s premier conservative conclave; and the loss of his job as technology editor of Trump-friendly Breitbart News.
He described the revelation of his podcast remarks as the result of “a politically motivated witch hunt.”
Yiannopolous claimed his resignation from Breitbart was voluntary, though several outraged staffers reportedly threatened to resign if he was kept on, and he heaped praise on Breitbart editor in chief Alexander Marlow, who issued a statement—calling Yiannopolous “a bold voice[that] has sparked a much-needed debate on important cultural topics”—but didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Asked if he might still show up in Washington for CPAC this week as an attendee, Yiannopolous said—again, without any sense of irony or, for that matter, self-awareness—that such a visit would be “indecorous.”
Alas, after four foiled attempts by The Daily Beast to ask Yiannopoulos if he stood by his claim, during an appearance in December at Minnesota State University, that BuzzFeed media writer Joe Bernstein is “a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pig shit media Jew,” it was clear that he was having none of it.
Given the Trump groupie’s implacable resistance—he can’t stop calling his new president “Daddy”—it seemed pointless to press Yiannopolous on whether he also still believes, as he once opined on Reddit, that “black men are notorious for lusting after a well-rounded caucasian butt cheek. I speak from experience”; he later elaborated: “Racist? Me? I’ve had more black dick in me than the entire Kardashian family.”
On Tuesday, as the muffled anti-Milo chants of protesters could be heard wafting up from the street (where members of New York’s Finest were on hand to prevent more aggressive forms of unpleasantness), Yiannopoulos claimed: “People who actually come to my shows and read my columns tend to end up liking me.”
But “people who just read the headlines,” he continued, referring to his noisy detractors, are being misled by unfair and inaccurate journalism that, he argued, irresponsibly misrepresents his beliefs and prompts general loathing.
“And you guys are responsible for that. Fuck you for that,” he complained, respectfully. “You did a bad thing.”