Milo Yiannopoulos leads Berkeley's contentious 'Free Speech Week': What to know

Milo Yiannopoulos, the rightwing provocateur, is hosting University of California, Berkeley’s upcoming “Free Speech Week” in conjunction with “Berkeley Patriot,” a student group.

Although the event is supposed to kick off on Sunday, Yiannopoulos and Berkeley Patriot are still battling the university over logistics. UC Berkeley said the group missed a deadline to pay for the use of two auditoriums; the student group accused the university of “bureaucratic stonewalling.”

Aside from being a prominent speaker at the upcoming event — wherever it will eventually be held — Yiannopoulos has remained front-and-center of free speech activism. Read on to find out more about the political commentator.

Who is Milo Yiannopoulos?

Born in the United Kingdom, the 32-year-old conservative firebrand is known for his bombastic remarks on social and cultural issues. He is a major proponent of free speech.

FILE -  In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 file photo, Milo Yiannopoulos speaks during a news conference in New York. Polarizing right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos has filed a $10 million lawsuit over a canceled book deal, Friday, July 7, 2017 .(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Milo Yiannopoulos helped finance UC Berkeley's controversial "Free Speech Week" through his media company.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“[Yiannopoulos] remains a mystery to much of the country — how can a flamboyantly gay Brit appeal to audiences as diverse as college students, active-duty soldiers, and grandparents? His fearless personality, ability to be both funny and factual, and take-no-prisoners approach to the culture war all help,” his media company said online.

He does not consider himself to be “alt-right.”

How is he involved with Berkeley’s “Free Speech Week”?

Yiannopoulos’ media company, MILO, Inc., has agreed to underwrite the “Free Speech Week,” and the outspoken Yiannopoulos has heavily promoted and defended the event on social media.


Yiannopoulos’ company shelled out more than $65,000 to host the events on UC Berkeley’s campus, he said in a statement to Fox News on Monday, as Berkeley Patriot and the university continue to fight over logistics.

He is scheduled to speak three of the four days of the event.

Yiannopoulos also is scheduled to give out the Mario Savio Award to an “individual that best exemplified courageous free expression over the last year,” according to the event’s website. Savio was an activist and leader of UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement in the 1960s.  

Why is he considered controversial?  

Yiannopoulos is known for his inflammatory statements about conservative and rightwing issues, including hosting a tour across college campuses that he called the “Dangerous Faggot” tour.

He accused popstar Ariana Grande for being “pro-Islam” in her response to a bombing at her Manchester concert that killed 22 people. Yiannopoulos has argued that “gay rights have made us dumber,” claimed that cyberbullying does not exist and decried feminism.

He has also referred to President Donald Trump as “daddy.”

Yiannopoulos resigned from his position as senior editor at Breitbart in February 2017 after a video was released in which he appeared to defend pedophilia. In the video, Yiannopoulos discussed sex between “younger boys” and older men and suggested that those relationships can “help those younger boys discover who they are.”


As a result, Yiannopoulos was disinvited from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster. He sued the publishing house for $10 million in July.

He also was banned from Twitter after he was accused of inciting violence against actor Leslie Jones in 2016.

What else do you need to know?

Yiannopoulos was slated to speak at UC Berkeley in February, but the event was abruptly cancelled when violent protests broke out on campus.

UC Berkeley decided to cancel the event just two hours before Yiannopoulos’ scheduled speech when demonstrators threw smoke bombs and broke windows in protest of his appearance. More than 1,500 people had gathered outside the venue, the university said.