STATEMENT DELIVERED AT PRESS CONFERENCE 2/21/07
I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim.
Between the ages of 13 and 16, two men touched me in ways they should not have. One of those men was a priest.
My relationship with my abusers is complicated by the fact that, at the time, I did not perceive what was happening to me as abusive. I can look back now and see that it was. I still don’t view myself as a victim. But I am one.
Looking back, I can see the effects it had on me. In the years after what happened, I fell into alcohol and nihilistic partying that lasted well into my late 20s.
A few years ago I realised it was time to do something good with my life. I started focusing on work. But the black comedy, gallows humor and love of shock value I developed in my 20s did not go away.
I’ve reviewed the tapes that appeared last night in their proper full context and I don’t believe they say what is being reported. Nonetheless I do say some things on the tapes that I do not mean and which do not reflect my views.
My experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous. But I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, “advocacy.” I am horrified by that impression.
I would like to restate my 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. I’ve outed three of them, in fact — three more than most of my critics.
And I’ve repeatedly expressed disgust at pedophilia in my feature and opinion writing. I was also the first journalist in the UK to ask after Jimmy Savile’s death whether the real story of his rampant child abuse would ever be told. My professional record is very clear.
But I do understand that the videos you have seen, even though some of them were deceptively edited, paint a different picture. I am partly to blame.
I do not advocate for illegal behavior. I explicitly say on the tapes, in a section that was cut from the footage you have seen, that I think the current age of consent is “about right.” I do not believe any change in the the legal age of consent is justifiable or desirable.
I do not believe sex with 13-year-olds is okay. When I mentioned the number 13, I was talking about myself, and the age I lost my own virginity.
I shouldn’t have used the word “boy” — which gay men often do to describe young men of consenting age — instead of “young man.” That was an error. I was talking about my own relationship when I was 17 with a man who was 29. The age of consent in the UK is 16.
I did say that there are relationships between younger men and older men that can help a young gay man escape from a lack of support or understanding at home. That’s perfectly true and every gay man knows it.
I am certainly guilty of imprecise language, which I regret.
Anyone who suggests I turn a blind eye to illegal activity or to the abuse of minors is unequivocally wrong. I am implacably opposed to the normalization of pedophilia and I will continue to report and speak accordingly. To repeat: I do not support pedophilia. It is a disgusting crime of which I have personally been a victim.
The remarks I made on podcasts and interviews more than a year ago were about my personal life experiences. I will not apologize for dealing with my life experiences in the best way that I can, which is humor. No one can tell me or anyone else who has lived through sexual abuse how to deal with those emotions.
But I am sorry to other abuse victims if my own personal way of dealing with what happened to me has hurt you.
I will never stop making jokes about taboo subjects. Go into any drag bar or gay club and you will see performers cracking jokes about clerical sexual abuse. I am not afforded that same freedom, because the media chooses to selectively define me as a political figure in some circumstances, and a comedian in others.
But I said some things on those internet live streams that were simply wrong.
My employer Breitbart News has stood by me when others caved. They have allowed me to carry conservative and libertarian ideas to communities that would otherwise never have heard them. They have been a significant factor in my success. I’m grateful for that freedom and for the friendships I forged there.
I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues’ important reporting, which is why today I am resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately. This decision is mine alone.
When your friends have done right by you, you do right by them. For me, now, that means stepping aside so my colleagues at Breitbart can get back to the great work they do.
My book, Dangerous, has received interest from publishers after my previous publisher Simon and Schuster informed me they no longer wished to release it. The book will come out this year as planned. I will be donating 10 per cent of my royalties to child sex abuse charities.
I haven’t ever apologized before. Name-calling doesn’t bother me. But to be a victim of child abuse and for the media to call me an apologist for child abuse is absurd.
I regret the things I said. I don’t think I’ve been as sorry about anything in my whole life. This isn’t how I wanted my parents to find out about this.
But let’s be clear what is happening here. This is a cynical media witch hunt from people who don’t care about children. They care about destroying me and my career, and by extension my allies. They know that although I made some outrageous statements, I’ve never actually done anything wrong. These videos have been out there for more than a year. The media held this story back because they don’t care about victims, they only care about bringing me down. They will fail.
I will be announcing a new, independently-funded media venture of my own and a live tour in the coming weeks.
I started my career as a technology reporter who wrote about politics but I have since become something else. I am a performer with millions of fans in America and beyond. I’m grateful for the tens of thousands of messages of support I’ve received and I look forward to making you all laugh, cry and think for many decades to come.
My full focus is now going to be on entertaining and educating everyone, left, right and otherwise. If you want to brand or stereotype me, good luck with that.
Don’t think for a moment that this will stop me being as offensive, provocative and outrageously funny as I want on any subject I want. America has a colossal free speech problem. The land of the First Amendment has some of the most oppressive social restrictions on free expression anywhere in the western world. I’m proud to be a warrior for free speech and creative expression.
I want everyone in America, the greatest country in the history of human civilisation, to be able to be, do, read and say anything. I will never stop fighting for your right to do that.
Thank you. I will take 5 questions.