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Conservative group cancels speech by Yiannopoulos

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has been disinvited to this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference after his attempt to clarify past comments on relationships between boys and older men fell flat with organizers.

Hours later, his publisher cancelled his book “Dangerous,” which had been scheduled to come out in June.

The American Conservative Union founded and hosts CPAC, which is being held Wednesday through Saturday outside Washington. In a tweet on Monday, ACU chairman Matt Schlapp said that “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.”

After the polarizing Breitbart News editor was invited, his invitation sparked a backlash. The conservative Reagan Battalion blog tweeted video clips Sunday in which Yiannopoulos discussed Jews, sexual consent, statutory rape, child abuse and homosexuality.

In one clip, Yiannopoulos defends sexual relationships between men and boys as young as 13 years old. He also speaks approvingly of his own sexual relationship with a 29-year-old priest when he was 17.

“In the homosexual world, particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of ‘coming of age’ relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents,” he said.

Later Monday, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint announced that “after careful consideration” they had pulled Yiannopoulos’ book, for which pre-orders placed it high on Amazon.com’s best-seller lists. The subject of intense controversy from the start, “Dangerous” was originally scheduled to come out in March. But Yiannopoulos pushed back the release to June so he could write about the protests during his recent campus tour, including a cancelled appearance at the University of California, Berkeley.

At the time of his publisher’s decision Monday, “Dangerous” ranked No. 83 on Amazon’s overall list and No. 1 in the subcategory of “Censorship & Politics.”

Simon & Schuster did not offer any specific reason for pulling “Dangerous.” In Facebook postings Monday night, Yiannopoulous wrote: “They canceled my book” and “I’ve gone through worse. This will not defeat me.”

Yiannopoulos is known for his vicious criticism of women and Muslims, among others. Last summer, he helped instigate a harassment campaign against “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones that led to his banishment from Twitter.

More than 100 Simon & Schuster authors had objected to his book deal, which was announced last December, and prominent feminist writer Roxane Gay withdrew a planned book. Some bookstores had said they would not sell it, although the National Coalition Against Censorship and other free speech organizations had defended the publisher. Threshold is a conservative imprint that has published books by President Donald Trump, who has defended Yiannopoulos, and former Vice President Dick Cheney, among others.

On Facebook, Yiannopoulos blamed deceptive editing and his own “sloppy phrasing” for any indication he supported pedophilia. The British author said he spoke of his own relationship when he was 17 with a man who was 29. The age of consent in the United Kingdom is 16.

It’s unclear who edited the videos.

“We realize that Mr. Yiannopoulos has responded on Facebook, but it is insufficient,” Schlapp said. “We urge him to immediately further address these disturbing comments.”

Schlapp said the invitation was initially extended knowing that free speech on college campuses is a “battlefield where we need brave, conservative standard-bearers.”

But he added: “There is no disagreement among our attendees on the evils of sexual abuse of children.”

Breitbart is considered by many a platform for the so-called “alt-right” movement, an offshoot of conservatism that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism. Its former executive chairman, Steve Bannon, is now a senior adviser to President Donald Trump.

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Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington and AP National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.

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