The faculty adviser to the Cal Poly College Republicans said comments in which right-wing British provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos appears to condone pedophilia were “disappointing” and that “Americans, rooted in a puritanical society, will not stand for it.”
French instructor Brian Kennelly, the adviser to the club that invited Yiannopoulos for a talk on campus Jan. 31, said it was the students’ initiative to bring the then-Breitbart News editor to Cal Poly and that he supported it as a free speech event.
But Kennelly said he isn’t sure how Yiannopoulos’ appearance at Cal Poly, as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour, might have been handled if the club had known Yiannopoulos condoned sexual relations between adults and boys as young as 13. Yiannopoulos’ comments on pedophilia came to light after a video interview of Yiannopoulos was posted on Twitter this week by a conservative group called The Reagan Battalion.
Yiannopoulos’ comments prompted the Conservative Political Action Conference to rescind its speaking invitation and Simon & Schuster to cancel his book deal. On Tuesday, Yiannopoulos resigned as a senior editor at Breitbart.
“Pedophilia is an abhorrent abuse of the power dynamic,” Kennelly said. “How would this have changed things? I don’t know. I think it would have led to some more complicated discussions.”
Pedophilia is an abhorrent abuse of the power dynamic. How would this have changed things? I don’t know. I think it would have led to some complicated discussions.
Brian Kennelly, Cal Poly College Republicans adviser
Kennelly said the age of sexual consent in some European countries is younger than in the United States — 16 in England, where Yiannopoulos grew up, and 14 in Germany — and that he has read French writers’ support of relationships between adult men and younger boys.
“I don’t really take a stance on those perspectives,” Kennelly said. “I think Americans, rooted in a puritanical society, will not stand for it.”
Yiannopoulos had already gained notoriety for his inflammatory comments about Muslims, feminists, overweight people and minorities — comments his supporters championed as free speech attacks on political correctness.
In the video, Yiannopoulos joked about pedophilia by priests and called the notion of consent “arbitrary and oppressive.” He endorsed relationships between boys and men, defining pedophilia as “not a sexual attraction to somebody 13 years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty.”
Kennelly said Yiannopoulos was referring to his experience as a victim of pedophilia, which Yiannopoulos said Tuesday.
“He was abused, and pedophilia is an explosive issue,” Kennelly said. “But I also think this exposure of these comments is payback for some of the (public) comments he has made that were pretty obnoxious and offensive and disgusting.”
Although Yiannopoulos publicly apologized Tuesday, he also called the viral video post a “cynical media witch hunt” to destroy his career. He announced his intention to start an independent media company and to embark on a new campus speaking tour.
The university cannot and will not speculate on how it might handle a hypothetical scenario.
Matt Lazier, Cal Poly spokesman
It’s unclear how Cal Poly might respond if a student club were to invite Yiannopoulos again.
“The university cannot and will not speculate on how it might handle a hypothetical scenario,” Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said.
Lazier didn’t comment on whether Cal Poly would have allowed Yiannopoulos on campus if the video had been made public earlier.
“The university proceeded with the College Republican club’s Jan. 31 event as it would have any other proposed recognized student organization event, based on all known, relevant information at that time,” Lazier said. “Free speech includes all speech that does not violate the law.”
Kennelly said he is not aware of any intention by the College Republicans to invite Yiannopoulos back. The club’s president, Katherine Rueckert, didn’t respond to requests for comment this week.
Kennelly said he has faced ostracism and criticism among faculty peers for his role with the group. He said he believes this latest revelation will be used against the club.
“This entire experience, broadly defined, has been a good learning experience,” Kennelly said. “Looking back on these last few months, in a year or two, the students will realize, ‘If I were to do it again, I would consider x, y and z.’ ”