Back in July when Milo Yiannopoulos fell from far-right grace, lost his book deal, and declared war on his erstwhile publisher Simon & Schuster, hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer was there to pick him up and dust him off. Anonymous sources told Buzzfeed that it was the Mercers who were helping Yiannopoulos fund his new come-back media venture, just as they helped fund the same organization that put Yiannopoulos on the map in the first place — Breitbart News, and its then-executive chairman Steve Bannon.
So it might seem surprising that suddenly Mercer is resigning from the firm that made him rich and is publicly condemning the wunderkind he helped create. Mercer wrote a memo to Renaissance Technology employees about his decision to step down as co-CEO. Mercer said this of Yiannopoulos:
I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expression of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today. But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate. I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him.
What happened was this: Buzzfeed gained access to a cache of emails, videos, and other documents that seem to prove what critics have long said about Breitbart — that it peddles white nationalist and anti-Semitic beliefs. Mercer was fine funneling millions into the controversial, right-wing news organization as it ascended into the mainstream parallel to President Trump’s rapid rise to power.
But now in light of such condemnatory material going public (not to mention Breitbart’s financial and ratings woes), Mercer felt compelled to pen a resignation memo that not only announces his career shift, but also outlines the nature and reasoning behind his conservative beliefs — beliefs that he emphasizes “do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.” Mercer’s even selling his shares in Breitbart to his daughters.
As Mercer himself put it, “I believe that individuals are happiest and most fulfilled when they form their own opinions.” So you can sort out for yourself what this means in the midst of a chaotic week in Trump world. There’s no word yet, though, on how Milo Yiannopoulos is going to react to desertion by his former benefactor.
UPDATE – 3:40pm EST: Milo has issued a brief statement, which expresses gratitude toward Mercer and slams the media.