UPDATED, 3:55 PM: Journalist Jeremy Scahill, a frequent guest of Real Time with Bill Maher, has canceled his appearance set for this Friday in protest of the show’s booking of Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial Breitbart News editor who Scahill says will use the HBO platform to “legitimize his hateful agenda.”
Real Time has replaced Scahill with Malcolm Nance, author of The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election. Yiannopoulos is set to appear as the top-of-show guest, a one-on-one segment with Maher, and so won’t share the stage or debate with other guests.
Scahill, who founded the self-described adversarial journalism site The Intercept, announced his exit via social media this afternoon. Read the full text of his announcement below, if his Twitter post is hard to make out.
Scahill has been a guest or panelist on Maher’s HBO show many times during the past decade and admits he might not always be popular with its audience. “[Maher] and his staff have created a vital platform for debate and discussion that at times I love and other times loathe,” he wrote in the post. “I know I fall into the latter category for some of the show’s viewers because I hear from them every time I appear. Whatever one might say about Bill, he always allows guests to challenge him or disagree with him.
“But Milo Yiannopoulos is many bridges too far.”
Scahill charges that Yiannopoulos’ appearance could “incite violence against immigrants, transgender people, and others.” In December, Yiannopoulos, while speaking at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, named a local transgender university student (her photo was subsequently inserted into the Youtube video of the speech, and not, as I originally wrote here, displayed on stage). Yiannopoulos mocked the woman and used an offensive term to describe transgenders.
Riots broke out at UC Berkeley when Yiannopoulos was set to appear there earlier this month.
Earlier today, a spokesperson for HBO told Deadline that Yiannopoulos would appear in the studio with Maher, and that, “as with other weeks, an appropriate amount of security will be on hand.”
Here’s Scahill’s statement:
PREVIOUSLY, 9:23 AM: Breitbart News provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, whose recent scheduled, and later canceled, appearance at the UC Berkeley set off a fiery protest, will appear on this Friday’s episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
Yiannopoulos, whose anti-feminist and anti-immigrant (among other anti provocations) are routinely denounced as hate speech, will be the top-of-show guest. He was an outspoken booster of Brexit as a way of preventing Muslim immigration, writing, in part, “I worry that my Europe — the Europe of Mozart, Wagner, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Locke and Hume — is rapidly disappearing.”
Yiannopoulos will be interviewed in-studio by Maher. Asked about the possibility of additional security, an HBO spokesperson said, “The series shoots on a secure lot, but as with other weeks, an appropriate amount of security will be on hand.”
Maher announced a couple weeks ago that the show was attempting to book Yiannopoulos. During Maher’s subsequent appearance on CNN’s The Messy Truth with Van Jones, the HBO host conceded that he wasn’t overly familiar with Yiannopoulos’ writing. He’s no doubt about to get a crash course.
Among his many controversies, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter after his posts about Ghostbuster’s Leslie Jones were seen as encouraging a despicable barrage of racist tweets.
On the February 3 episode of Real Time — two days after the violent Berkeley protests — Maher said the show was attempting to book Yiannopoulos. “I guess we’ll be putting on extra security,” he joked (or maybe not), adding, “I’ve been a longtime critic of colleges shutting people up. Free speech should be something we own.”
Maher said of Yiannopoulos then: “He’s a provocateur. He’s been thrown off Twitter — that’s how bad he is.”
Here is Scahill’s full letter announcing he won’t be on Real Time this week:
Today I saw the news that Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to be the lead guest on Friday’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. I was already scheduled to be a panelist on the program that same evening, along with Larry Wilmore and Jack Kingston. I have decided that I will not be appearing on the show. Before I explain my reasons for this, I want to say that I have had the pleasure of working as a correspondent for Real Time and over the years have been a guest or panelist many times. I have total admiration and respect for the producers, writers, and others who work on the show.
Over the past decade, the people at Real Time have become like family to me. I passionately disagree with—and find offensive— some of Bill’s views, particularly when his comments on Islam and Muslims veer into vitriol. At the same time, I have deep respect for Bill and his voice on many other issues and I believe he and his staff have created a vital platform for debate and discussion that at times I love and other times loathe. I know I fall into the latter category for some of the show’s viewers because I hear from them every time I appear. Whatever one might say about Bill, he always allows guests to challenge him or disagree with him.
But Milo Yiannopoulos is many bridges too far. He has ample venues to spew his hateful diatribes. There is no value in “debating” him. Appearing on Real Time will provide Yiannopoulos with a large, important platform to openly advocate his racist, anti-immigrant campaign. It will be exploited by Yiannopoulos in an attempt to legitimize his hateful agenda. Yiannopoulos’s appearance could also be used to incite violence against immigrants, transgender people, and others at a time when the Trump Administration is already seeking to formalize a war against some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Yiannopoulos has shown he will use his appearances to publicly attack and shame specific ordinary people by name, a practice which could lead to violence or even death. Real Time, of course, has the right to book whomever it wants on its show, including Yiannopoulos. But I cannot participate in an event that will give a platform to such a person. For these reasons, I have informed the producers of Real Time that I will not appear on the show.
—Jeremy Scahill, journalist.