A leading US conservative conference rescinded its invitation to Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, and publisher Simon & Schuster cancelled his book deal on Monday after old internet videos recirculated in which he discusses paedophilia.
Yiannopoulos, in a Facebook video post, denied he ever condoned paedophilia and said one video of him was edited to give a misleading impression.
Yiannopoulos, from Kent, England, is an openly gay opponent of "political correctness." Twitter banned him last year for "participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals." His comments on race, religion and sex blur the lines between free speech and hate speech.
He regularly targets Muslims, immigrants, women, liberals and others perceived to be enemies of the “alt-right,” a movement in the US that critics say advocates white supremacy, misogyny and xenophobia. Breitbart News was formerly run by Stephen Bannon, now a key strategist for US President Donald Trump.
The chairman of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, said the group withdrew its invitation to this year's event "due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning paedophilia."
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) February 20, 2017
"We realize that Mr Yiannopoulos has responded on Facebook, but it is insufficient," Matt Schlapp, chairman of the union, said in the Twitter post.
CPAC is a high-profile annual gathering of conservative activists. President Trump is among the scheduled speakers this year along with Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Breitbart boss Bannon.
In the video Yiannopoulos seems to suggest the standard for paedophilia is whether the younger partner has gone through puberty. At another point in the video, however, Yiannopoulos says the established age of consent, which is 16 to 18 years old in the United States, is "about right."
In his Facebook statement on Monday, Yiannopoulos denied condoning paedophilia.
"I find those crimes to be absolutely disgusting. I find those people to be disgusting," he said, while expressing regret he used the word "boys" instead of young men while discussing relationships that involve large age differences.
Book deal cancelled
Breitbart News is considering whether to dismiss Yiannopoulos Fox Business said, attributing it to an unnamed source.
Simon & Schuster on Monday cancelled publication of Yiannopoulos' book "Dangerous," which was due out on June 13.
Earlier this month, the University of California cancelled Yiannopoulos's speaking engagement on the Berkeley campus after violent protests against his appearance broke out.
Protest causes UC Berkeley to cancel Milo Yiannopoulos speaking event. https://t.co/x80XcIvyWX
— Velena Jones (@velenajones) February 2, 2017
Trump, in response, threatened on Twitter to cut off federal funding for the university but it is still not clear if that is possible.
Neither Trump nor Bannon has yet commented on this latest controversy.