- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2017

President Trump will speak at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, organizers said Monday — but Milo Yiannopoulos won’t after he was disinvited Monday following newly unearthed videos showing him discussing pedophilia.

Mr. Yiannopoulos, an editor at Breitbart News, has become a deeply divisive figure in American politics. CPAC’s decision this weekend to invite him drew quick scrutiny — and video clips in which he suggested sex between 20-something adults and 13-year-old children happens “perfectly consensually.”

“Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference,” Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which acts as host of CPAC, said in a statement.

CPAC kicks off this week at an uncertain time for conservative activists. The Republican Party, which most of them call home, has control of both chambers of Congress and the White House — but they question the political leanings of that man in the White House, Mr. Trump.

The president will speak Friday, CPAC announced Monday.

But that news was overshadowed by the controversy over Mr. Yiannopoulos, whose provocateur persona has sparked riots at college campuses across the country.

SEE ALSO: Milo Yiannopoulos proves costly to CPAC

Things devolved Sunday, a day after CPAC’s invitation, when the Reagan Battalion promoted past clips of Mr. Yiannopoulos talking about relationships between underage children and adults.

“We’re talking about 13-25, 13-28 — these things do happen perfectly consensually,” he said in one clip.

“We get hung up on abuse — this is a controversial point of view, I accept — but we get hung up on this sort of child abuse stuff to the point where we’re heavily policing even relationships between consenting adults,” he said, giving the example of graduate students and professors.

Mr. Yiannopoulos said in a Facebook post Monday that some of the videos were “deceptively edited.” Still, he said his words left the wrong impression that he wasn’t “horrified” by pedophilia.

Mr. Yiannopoulos, who led the statement by saying he was both a gay man and a child abuse victim, said he was partly to blame and that his own experience as a victim “led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous.”

He had said in a Facebook post Sunday he does not support pedophilia, calling it a “vile and disgusting crime.”

But Mr. Schlapp said the original Facebook response was “insufficient.”

“It is up to him to answer the tough questions, and we urge him to immediately further address these disturbing comments,” he said.

CPAC wasn’t the only institution to drop Mr. Yiannopoulos on Monday. Publisher Simon & Schuster canceled plans to publish a book by the gay provocateur under its conservative Threshold brand this summer.

“After careful consideration @simonschuster and its @threshold_books have canceled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos,” Adam Rothberg of the publisher’s public relations department wrote late Monday afternoon on Twitter.

And according to a report earlier Monday on Fox Business News, citing unnamed sources, Breitbart was also considering cutting ties with Mr. Yiannopoulos.

Still, the ACU faced heated criticism for extending an invitation to someone so well known for making controversy.

Mr. Yiannopoulos wrote last year that the deadly June 2016 terror attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando was an expression of “mainstream Muslim values.” He was permanently banned from Twitter last year after referring to Leslie Jones, one of the actresses in the “Ghostbusters” reboot, as a “black dude.”

His recent college campus speeches, which he branded the “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” have often been met with protests.

Mr. Schlapp said the ACU initially extended the invitation as a sign of support for “brave, conservative standard-bearers” in the battle over free speech on college campuses.

“We continue to believe that CPAC is a constructive forum for controversies and disagreements among conservatives. However, there is no disagreement among our attendees on the evils of sexual abuse of children,” Mr. Schlapp said.

Alan Gottlieb, a member of the ACU board of directors, said he doesn’t support Mr. Yiannopoulos’s sexual positions “whatsoever,” or his statements and language he uses in public.

“I find it offensive. But offensive speech doesn’t scare me, and he ought to know that the conservative movement as a whole doesn’t support that kind of speech,” said Mr. Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

He said if Mr. Yiannopoulos were to speak at CPAC, he’d realize conservatives “do not support that part of his philosophy whatsoever.”

“On the other hand, I think they overwhelmingly support the fact that conservatives should be allowed to speak on college campuses and political correctness has run amok,” he said.

Mr. Trump had raised the idea of cutting off federal funding for the University of California, Berkeley after the school canceled a scheduled appearance by Mr. Yiannopoulos in the face of riots earlier this month.

The ACU is no stranger to dustups over its invitation list.

The organization saw a long-running battle over whether a group of gay Republicans would be allowed to host a booth.

And conservative firebrand Ann Coulter was one of the staples of the program until she was disinvited from the main stage in 2008, earned her way back, then was ditched again in 2015.

At that time, several potential front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, were or had been supporters of comprehensive immigration reform.

“If I want to watch a bunch of rich white people suck up to Mexicans, I’ll watch the Oscars again,” Ms. Coulter said on Twitter at the time.

Mr. Schlapp said this week that the ACU gives “great thought” to who is invited to speak, but that “the CPAC platform is not an endorsement of everything a speaker says or does.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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