Back in February, it looked like Milo Yiannopoulos’s career was toast. After winning fame on the strength of President Trump’s campaign, the right-wing provocateur suffered a succession of setbacks after it was revealed that he once defended pederasty: He lost a book deal, a coveted speaking slot and his post at Breitbart News in one week. But as we hit the six-month mark of the Trump administration, Yiannopoulos has accomplished a quick comeback, once again commanding the attention of conservative fans and outraged foes.
Yiannopoulos re-emerged in May, when he slammed the singer Ariana Grande and headlined a protest against activist Linda Sarsour’s commencement address at CUNY’s public health school. “Sadly, Ariana Grande is too stupid to wise up and warn her European fans about the real threats to their freedom and their lives,” the British-born Yiannopoulos wrote only a few hours after dozens of people had been killed in a terror attack at the pop star’s concert in Manchester, England. He continued the broadsides at his New York speech against Sarsour later in the week; he spoke under a driving rain and denounced the Muslim civil rights leader as a “Sharia-embracing, terrorist-embracing, Jew-hating ticking time-bomb of progressive horror.”
Since then, Yiannopoulos has only garnered more attention, with the Independence Day release of his book “Dangerous” — a title ripped from the visits he made to American college campuses as part of his self-declared “Dangerous Faggot” tour. Panned in numerous outlets, the book is divided into laundry list chapters about why various demographics hate him - including feminists, Black Lives Matter activists and the media. It also includes occasional discussions of Yiannopoulos’s sexual interest in black men, which he often invokes to dispel charges of racism. Nonetheless, the memoir has shot to the top of the Amazon best-seller list — a definite sign that Yiannopoulos’s star continues to shine brightly. His achievement was made more impressive, given the fact that he self-published the memoir, following Simon & Schuster’s decision to dump his title in February.
When the pedophilia comments surfaced, the chastened Yiannopoulos gave a formal press conference where he apologized for his actions and sought forgiveness. But now that he’s back in the saddle again, the bomb-thrower isn’t saving any of his firepower. He’s threatening to sue Simon & Schuster for canceling his book deal — a threat that the imprint dismissed as a publicity stunt. He also hired dwarfs to don yarmulkes at a New York book launch party to mock Jewish right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, an old rival from the days when both men worked at Breitbart.
Yiannopoulos is also getting support from some deep-pocketed people. According to leaked e-mails between Yiannopoulos and Breitbart News head Alex Marlow, it appears that hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, helped finance Yiannopoulos after he left Breitbart and may have even helped him obtain a visa to remain in the United States. “Rebekah Mercer loves Milo,” said an unidentified source friendly with the family, which funded Trump’s presidential campaign and set up the electoral data mining company Cambridge Analytica to back him. “They always stood behind him, and their support never wavered.”
As the summer continues, Yiannopoulos’s plans seem to be up in the air. Will he write another book, launch another hair-raising speaking tour, start his own media outlet, join an existing one? These are unknowns. But already he’s done something impressive: He’s maintained and expanded his public profile after a scandal that may have felled longer-time celebrities. Whatever happens next, he’s the master of the millennial internet culture that is his domain.
Daniel J. Solomon is the former Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.