Milo Yiannopoulos has sued Simon & Schuster for $10 million, claiming Friday that, after a firestorm of negative publicity in part generated by left-leaning celebrities, the firm abruptly reneged on a deal to publish his book, Dangerous.
According to the lawsuit, Simon & Schuster was to pay the controversial gay conservative a $255,000 advance for a book to be published by its Threshold imprint, though it backed out of the agreement over fear of repercussions from progressives threatening to boycott the CBS-owned company.
The lawsuit, filed Friday by Meister Seelig & Fein out of New York, says executives at the publishing house praised early manuscripts of Dangerous, told its marketing and public relations departments to prepare for war, then pulled the plug on the book three weeks prior to its originally scheduled release.
The lawsuit says Simon & Schuster spiked Yiannopoulos' book "in the wake of false and misleading reports that he had publicly condoned pedophilia — an accusation he has vociferously denied in social media postings, as well as in the pages of Dangerous, which Yiannopoulos self-published on July 4, 2017."
The 83-page lawsuit, though, details several controversies beyond pedophilia — which stemmed from audio of Yiannopoulos discussing gay men having sex with willing teenagers — and even includes quotes from celebrities.
The lawsuit, for example, says Leslie Jones accused the publisher of helping Yiannopoulos and his ilk "spread their hate"; 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"; and Judd Apatow tweeted, "In these times we cannot let hatemongers get rich off of their cruelty. Shame on @simonschuster."
The lawsuit notes that this publication broke the news of his book deal, and adds that there was "overwhelmingly negative reaction to The Hollywood Reporter story from all corners of the left-leaning public."
The reaction included feminist author Roxane Gay pulling her book from Simon & Schuster; a publisher tweeting, "Stop buying, stocking, assigning, and reviewing their books until they end their relationship with Milo"; the Chicago Review of Books threatening to "not cover a single Simon & Schuster book in 2017"; and a writer for Elle accusing the publisher of "endangering human lives" by publishing Dangerous.
Also, CNN published an editorial asking, "Why on earth would Simon & Schuster give (Milo) a platform?"; a Teen Vogue writer encouraged the public to send a "deluge of calls and physical letters" to the publisher; and Los Angeles Times books editor Carolyn Kellogg accused the publisher of promoting an author with "racist, sexist views."
At one point, Mitchell Ivers, editorial director at Simon & Schuster, asked Yiannopoulos and his literary agent, Thomas Flannery, for their advice on handling liberal objections. "I'm looking for best responses to Alt-Right, white supremacists, and Leslie Jones," he wrote in an email.
Ivers also asked Yiannopoulos to end a public feud with Jones, the comedian and Ghostbusters actress, and, according to the lawsuit, he was also displeased with the author appearing "on shows with Bill Maher and the like so close to the book release date."
Eventually, Ivers coordinated an "all-hands call" with his boss, publicity executives, Yiannopoulos and others. Three days after the call, which Ivers described as "great," he informed Flannery that Simon & Schuster was terminating the publishing agreement, even though it had already paid Yiannopoulos $80,000 of the $255,000 advance.
The lawsuit said Simon & Schuster called the manuscript "unacceptable" even though five days earlier Ivers thanked the author for his "thorough and good work."
"Yiannopoulos has been damaged in an amount to be determined at trial, but in no event less than Ten Million Dollars," the lawsuit says.
"Although we have not been officially served, we believe that Yiannopoulos' lawsuit is publicity driven and entirely without merit," Simon & Schuster said in an emailed statement. "Simon & Schuster will vigorously defend itself against any such action, and fully expects to prevail in court."