Roxane Gay on Cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos’ Book: Nothing Has Changed

By Kenrya Rankin Feb 21, 2017

Update, February 21, 2017, 2:52 p.m ET:

Mediaite reports that Milo Yiannopoulos just resigned from conservative news site Breitbart, following pressure from his colleagues.


Last month, writer Roxane Gay pulled an upcoming book from publisher Simon & Schuster because the company signed a contract with Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer who has made a career of being racist and sexist online.

“I was supposed to turn the book in this month and I kept thinking about how egregious it is to give someone like Milo a platform for his blunt, inelegant hate and provocation,” Gay told Buzzfeed at the time. “I just couldn’t bring myself to turn the book in. My editor emailed me last week and I kept staring at that email in my inbox and finally over the weekend I asked my agent to pull the book.”

NPR reports that an estimated 100 authors affiliated with the company also objected to the deal. But the publisher stuck by Yiannopoulos until yesterday (February 20), when conservative outlet The Reagan Battalion tweeted a 2016 video of the writer seemingly defending pedophilia.

It appears that video is what it took for the publisher to drop Yiannapoulos, whose book, “Dangerous” garnered a $250,000 advance, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Simon & Schuster spokesperson Adam Rothberg tweeted the news:

But Gay is unimpressed. She posted a reaction to the cancellation on her blog yesterday, calling out the publisher for ignoring Yiannapoulos’ hate until it threatened the company’s money. The statement appears in full below:

All I really need to say: In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech. Certainly, Simon & Schuster was not alone in what they were willing to tolerate. A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.

Because I’ve been asked, I will not be publishing my book with Simon & Schuster now that they have dropped Milo. After I pulled my book, they changed the release date of “Dangerous” from March to June 13, the day my next book, “Hunger,” comes out. I said nothing because I was neither threatened nor concerned but it did reinforce for me that this was not a company I wanted to do business with. My protest stands. Simon & Schuster should have never enabled Milo in the first place. I see what they are willing to tolerate and I stand against all of it. Also, I’ve received far better offers for “How to Be Heard” from other publishers.

There are some who will spin the cancellation of this book contract as a failure of the freedom of speech but such is not the case. This is yet another example of how we are afforded the freedom of speech but there is no freedom from the consequences of what we say.

Yiannapoulos was also dropped from the lineup at the Conservative Political Action Conference later this week, and The Hill reports that several of his colleagues at Breitbart News are threatening to leave if he is not fired.

The conservative writer posted on Facebook about the controversy yesterday, saying: “I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim. I would like to restate my utter disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors. I am horrified by pedophilia and I have devoted large portions of my career as a journalist to exposing child abusers…. But I do understand that these videos, even though some of them are edited deceptively, paint a different picture.”