Conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos said Tuesday he was sexually abused twice as a child, once by a priest, during a news conference where he apologized for and defended comments he made condoning pedophilia.
"I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim. Between the ages of 13 and 16, two men touched me in ways they should not have," he began a news conference in Manhattan. "This isn’t how I wanted my parents to find out about this either.”
"My experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say almost anything on the subject, no matter how outrageous," he said. “I do not advocate for illegal behavior...I believe the age of consent is right.”
After Yiannopoulos's comments — in which he said older gay men can benefit younger gay men in sexual relationships — were revealed on Monday, he was disinvited to speak at a conservative conference, his book deal with Simon & Schuster was canceled, and he resigned from the outlet that gave him his vitriolic platform.
He resigned as an editor from right-wing Breitbart News shortly before the press conference. "Breitbart News has stood by me when others caved," he said, adding, "I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues' important reporting."
Breitbart said in a statement that Yiannopoulos's "bold voice has sparked much-needed debate on important cultural topics confronting universities, the LGBTQ community, the press, and the tech industry." Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart, went on to run President Donald Trump's campaign and is now his chief strategist.
Yiannopoulos, seen as a voice of the alt-right movement that supported Trump in his campaign, said he shared "disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors," and that he does not advocate illegal behavior.
"I don't believe that sex with 13-years-olds is OK," he said. "I'm certainly guilty of imprecise language, which I regret."
“I didn’t even remember that I made them,” he said about the comments, adding, “I do hundreds of videos a month” and ”thousands of hours shooting shit on video.”
“For those statements I made where I misspoke," he said, "I apologize.”
Still, during the news conference, Yiannopoulos was all at once apologetic for his comments, defiant about continuing to make offensive remarks, and boastful about the sizes of the audiences he can draw. “I have probably done more for the image of gays in flyover states” than every LGBT advocacy organization combined, he said.
He also scapegoated certain news outlets several times, accusing them of selective editing and launching a "cynical media witch hunt” against him. “America has a colossal free speech problem,” he said.
Still, he said, the incident isn't going to temper his comments, which are often anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and racist. “I don’t see why I can’t make a joke about clerical sexual abuse but a drag queen two blocks away can,” he said.
He said that although his book had been canceled, he has received interest from other publishers, and added that he plans to donate 10% of his royalties to child abuse charities.
Yiannopoulos also compared being a victim of sexual abuse to going bankrupt, and encouraged people not to allow rape to shape their lives.
"It’s not the worst thing that’s ever going to happen to you," he said. "And I know that some people will find that in itself to be an outrageous statement, but it simply isn’t the worst thing that will ever happen to you. Going bankrupt is worse."
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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