The American Conservative Union (ACU) has rescinded Milo Yiannopoulous' invitation to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The organization did not dis-invite Yiannopoulos because of his long and robust history of bigoted, misogynistic rhetoric or his embrace of the alt-right, a movement that many critics argue is filled with racism and anti-Semitism. Rather it was because of the recent resurfacing of a video in which he allegedly condoned pedophilia, according to a statement from ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. Yiannopoulos denies that he supports pedophilia and says his comments were edited in a deceptive way. Although Yiannopoulos' video was the last straw for the ACU, I believe CPAC organizers should have realized the problem well before the video resurfaced.
Last year, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter because he appeared to encourage and promote the harassment of Ghostbusters' Leslie Jones — and his followers made racist remarks about her. His defense was "everyone gets hate mail." In January, he hurled slurs at a transgender student during an event at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has routinely perpetuated and condoned anti-Semitic rhetoric, like calling a writer a "thick-as-pig shit media Jew." He launched a smear campaign against New York Daily News journalist Shaun King, arguing that King was not actually black.
Yiannopoulos has made so many racist, sexist, Islamophobic, transphobic, ableist comments — all under the defense of "free speech" — and these comments have had consequences. Jones had her privacy breached, and King had to disclose personal information about himself and his family because of the ridiculous attack Yiannopoulos launched.
And yet, none of this seemed to deter CPAC organizers from originally inviting him to speak.
As Schlapp said in his official statement, Yiannopoulos did, indeed, respond to conservative backlash on Facebook. He argued that he did not support pedophilia, and discussed at length his views on the subject.
I do not support pedophilia. Period. It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst. There are selectively edited videos doing the rounds, as part of a co-ordinated effort to discredit me from establishment Republicans, that suggest I am soft on the subject.
If it somehow comes across (through my own sloppy phrasing or through deceptive editing) that I meant any of the ugly things alleged, let me set the record straight: I am completely disgusted by the abuse of children.
But to me, his responses are irrelevant, as is his non-apology for "sloppy phrasing." What is really appalling is that Yiannopoulos' years of disseminating hate speech and harassing people — before that video was even released — was not enough to preemptively disqualify him from having access to the CPAC platform.
Yiannopoulos' comments in that video, and his recent Facebook response, are just an extension of his own personal legacy. But whereas, according to Schlapp, "there is no disagreement among our attendees on the evils of sexual abuse of children," there is apparently no unanimous denouncement when it comes to Yiannopoulous' harassment of trans college students or his promotion of racist and sexist attacks.
The CPAC organizers may passionately defend Yiannopoulos' right to free speech, but they also didn't need to elevate Yiannopoulous and provide him with an extra platform. They should have drawn their line much earlier, rather than waiting for something new to come to light.