Leslie Jones accuses Simon & Schuster over Milo Yiannopoulos book deal

Ghostbusters star says publisher is helping figures including the ‘alt-right’ Breitbart News commentator to ‘spread hate’

Comedian Leslie Jones has spoken out against Simon & Schuster’s decision to publish a book by outspoken “alt-right” figure Milo Yiannopoulos, months after he was banned from Twitter for allegedly encouraging a bombardment of abusive tweets towards the Ghostbusters actor.

It was announced last week that Yiannopoulos, an editor for Breitbart News, had signed a $250,000 (£203,000) contract with Threshold, a conservative imprint of publisher Simon & Schuster, after he was offered – in his words – “a wheelbarrow full of money”. Threshold has previously printed books by Donald Trump, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh.

The news sparked outrage among those who say he should not have a platform to share his views. After a coordinated appeal began on 29 December, with instructions on how to call the publisher and individual agents being shared widely online, Simon & Schuster briefly responded to the backlash, asking critics to “withhold judgment until they have had a chance to read the actual contents of the book”.

It later issued a longer statement, saying it does not and never has condoned discrimination or hate speech in any form, that it had “always published books by a wide range of authors with greatly varying, and frequently controversial opinions”, and that “while we are cognisant that many may disagree vehemently with the books we publish we note that the opinions expressed therein belong to our authors, and do not reflect either a corporate viewpoint or the views of our employees”.

Jones, who almost left Twitter after the abuse until the CEO of the social media platform, Jack Dorsey personally intervened, accused Simon & Schuster of helping the likes of Yiannopoulos “spread their hate”.

@SimonBooks @threshold_books @simonschuster yea but you still help them spread their hate to even more people.

— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) January 2, 2017

By 30 December the book, entitled Dangerous, was already No 2 on Amazon’s overall bestseller list and the No 1 in the site’s political commentary and opinion category, despite not being scheduled to arrive until March.

Authors and industry bodies have denounced Simon & Schuster for making the deal. The Chicago Review of Books announced it would not be reviewing any Simon & Schuster books in 2017 – the company publishes about 2,000 books a year across its 35 imprints.

Author Karen Hunter, who is published by Simon & Schuster, tweeted that she’s “rethinking my relationship” with the company, while fellow Simon & Schuster author Danielle Henderson wrote: “I have calls in with my editor, agent and lawyer. This is too personal for me to ignore.” She later explained that the publisher had paid a large advance for her forthcoming book The Ugly Cry but that she would be happy to find another publisher if it did go on to put out Yiannopoulos’s book.

Jones’s colleagues in Hollywood also spoke out. Comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted: “The guy has freedom of speech but to fund him & give him a platform tells me a LOT about @simonschuster YUCK AND BOO AND GROSS”, while director Judd Apatow tweeted: “In these times we can not let hatemongers get rich off of their cruelty. Shame on @simonschuster!”

A conservative who led the Gays for Trump movement during the 2016 US elections, Greek-born Brit Yiannopoulos has labelled transgender people as “mentally ill”, called feminism “cancer” and said the Black Lives Matter movement is a “hate group”. He was also a leading figure in the Gamergate controversy.

Yiannopoulos has announced books twice before that never materialised: one on Gamergate, which he announced in December 2014, and one called The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley, in January 2015.


Sian Cain

The GuardianTramp

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