NEW YORK (Reuters) – A leading U.S. conservative conference rescinded its invitation to provocative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and a publisher canceled his book deal on Monday after old internet videos of him recirculated in which he discusses pedophilia.
Yiannopoulos, in a Facebook video post, denied he ever condoned pedophilia and said one video of him was edited to give a misleading impression.
Yiannopoulos, a Briton who is celebrated by some arch conservatives, was banned from Twitter last year after making highly controversial statements. He has infuriated liberals with provocative comments on race, religion and sex and appears to delight in his ability to offend.
The chairman of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, said on Sunday the group rescinded an invitation to this year’s Wednesday-Saturday event “due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia.”
“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 Donald Trump is among the scheduled speakers this year along with Vice President Mike Pence, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. Yiannopoulos is also an editor for the right-wing Breitbart News, which Bannon once headed.
Earlier this month, the University of California canceled Yiannopoulos’ speaking engagement on the Berkeley campus when violent protests against his appearance broke out.
Trump, in response, threatened on Twitter to cut off federal funding for the university.
The latest controversy stems from a video in which Yiannopoulos seems to suggest the standard for pedophilia 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 pedophilia.
“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 the benefits of relationships between men with large age differences.
Book publisher Simon & Schuster said it canceled the publication of Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous, which was due out on June 13.
“After careful consideration @simonschuster and its @threshold_books have cancelled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos,” spokesman Adam Rothberg said on Twitter.
Yiannopoulos acknowledged in a separate Facebook post: “They canceled my book.”
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Cooney)