ANALYSIS

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Milo Yiannopoulos: A match made in troll heaven

Alt-right provocateur turned "ex-gay" joins the staff of the congresswoman from QAnon. To own the libs, of course

Published June 7, 2022 6:00AM (EDT)

Milo Yiannopoulos and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Milo Yiannopoulos and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

On Monday morning, far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos posted a picture on his Telegram account of an ID badge bearing his picture and identifying him as a new congressional intern for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Georgia Republican. In the accompanying post, first reported by Right Wing Watch, he wrote, "I've finally been persuaded out of retirement. But my skills are a bit rusty, so the best role I could land was an unpaid internship with a friend. Pray for me!" Shortly thereafter, he added, "Mummy always said I'd end up in government!" 

By Monday afternoon, Greene's office had confirmed the news, with the congresswoman elaborating in a statement to multiple outlets, "So I have an intern that was raped by a priest as a young teen, was gay, has offended everyone at some point, turned his life back to Jesus and Church, and changed his life. Great story!" 

On one hand, it's a match made in right-wing heaven. Yiannopoulos, the troll king who reveled in liberal outrage at the height of his alt-right fame in 2016, formally matched with Greene, a QAnon sympathizer who turned the same sort of provocation into a political career. Appointing Yiannopoulos — a 37-year-old "ex-gay" Brit with a miles-long history of extreme racism, homophobia and misogyny — as a congressional summer intern is certainly an audacious piece of lib-owning. But all lulz aside, it also represents the deepening entanglement of both official Republican politics and conservative religion with white nationalist ideology. 

RELATED: Marjorie Taylor Greene asks right-wing Catholics: How come "God hasn't destroyed" America?

Speculation about Greene's relationship with Yiannopoulos has been percolating for a while. In late February, Yiannopoulos was credited with facilitating the surprise appearance of Greene at the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), the annual gathering of the explicitly white nationalist and youth-oriented America First/groyper movement led by Nick Fuentes. While Fuentes used the occasion to praise Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler (no, really), Greene took to the stage to greet Fuentes' fans as "canceled Americans" who she said had been "handed the responsibility to fight for our Constitution and stand for our freedoms, and stop the Democrats who are the Communist Party of the United States of America." During her speech, the crowd broke into chants of "America First" and "Christ is King" — the latter being a call increasingly adopted by far-right activists who have fused their politics with Christian, and often Catholic, symbolism. 

When Greene was later denounced for speaking at the event, she at first claimed she knew nothing about Fuentes or his movement, although in 2021, she had been part of a short-lived effort, with fellow groyper hero Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., to create an America First PAC focused on defending "America's uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions." Later, on Twitter, she responded more forcefully by decrying "journalists and Washington insiders who fear the name of Our Lord" as well as "Pharisees in the Republican Party" who "attack me for being willing to break barriers and speak to a lost generation of young people" who had "gathered to declare that Christ is King." 

Two months later, in April, Greene held a press conference in Washington with Yiannopoulos in tow, where she suggested that Elon Musk should meet with him as part of "a roundtable of all the most brilliant people who have been unjustly banned from Twitter." (The rest of Greene's all-star lineup included Donald Trump, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and a greater "cancelled nation.") Several weeks later, the conservative Washington Examiner reported that Yiannopoulos had been spotted backstage at a Georgia primary election debate, standing alongside Greene's campaign staff. 


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Also in April, Greene gave a long and controversial interview to the far-right Catholic media outlet Church Militant, in which she infamously declared that "Satan" was controlling the Catholic church, as evidenced by the work of Catholic aid groups to help migrants and refugees. Observers speculated that Yiannopoulos had likely arranged this piece of news-bait as well; for the last year, Yiannopoulos has served as a regular contributor to Church Militant, which in turn had helped Yiannopoulos remake himself after a very public fall from grace several years before. 

In 2015, Yiannopoulos gained notoriety as a chief popularizer of alt-right ideology on Steve Bannon's Breitbart News, where he helped pioneer a form of winking, "ironic" white nationalism. (Alt-right antisemitism, he claimed, was "simply a means to fluster their grandparents," no more sincere than the supposed satanism of 1980s metalheads.) By 2016, he'd gotten a $250,000 book deal and speaking engagements and in early 2017, when his planned appearance at the University of California, Berkeley, led to violent protests, he gained the endorsement of Trump himself, who tweeted in defense of the provocateur's right to free speech. But the same year, just before a scheduled address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a video surfaced of Yiannopoulos minimizing some instances of child sex abuse as "enriching" rather than abusive, and he was drummed out of both the far right and the mainstream conservative movement, to which he'd seemed about to gain entry. 

After being driven out of conservative politics, Yiannopoulos reinvented himself as an "ex-gay" right-wing Catholic, who blamed Pope Francis (somehow) for the decades-long sex abuse crisis within the church.

Over the next three years, Yiannopoulos set about rehabilitating his image largely by turning to a right-wing form of Catholicism. In 2018, he published a book, "Diabolical: How Pope Francis Has Betrayed Clerical Abuse Victims Like Me — and Why He Has to Go," arguing that his comments about child molestation had been a glib way to process his own experience of child sex abuse, which he connected to the larger crisis in the church. His willingness to blame the current pope, whom many right-wing Catholics despise, earned him an eager audience on the reactionary fringes of Catholic media, which in early 2021 happily covered his announcement that he had returned to the church, become "ex-gay" and was opening a Catholic conversion therapy clinic in Florida. 

By last summer, he was writing regularly at Church Militant, targeting the "cult of homosexualism," recounting anecdotes about women who have suffered miscarriages after receiving COVID-19 vaccines and attacking the leadership of the U.S. Catholic Church. In November, he served as emcee for Church Militant's large protest rally against the church's American bishops. At the same event, anti-immigration pundit Michelle Malkin also spoke, arguing — with similar logic to Greene's — that Catholic bishops supported immigrants and refugees as part of their "ultimate goal of fundamentally transforming the United States of America and destroying the historic American nation": language that clearly echoes the "great replacement" theory that drove the mass shooter in Buffalo this May. 

Church Militant has long occupied the outer margins of Christian media, but as a Salon investigation revealed last month, it has recently appealed directly to the white nationalist far right as well, through an overt outreach campaign directed at Fuentes' America First/groyper movement. The outlet has hosted groyper leaders for friendly interviews, promoted the alternative streaming services its leaders use and crafted social media advertisements that use America First imagery in an attempt to recruit groypers to its activist network. In the wake of last month's leaked Supreme Court opinion that will apparently strike down Roe v. Wade, Church Militant and America First/groyper leaders planned a series of counterprotests against pro-choice demonstrations. When Church Militant's founder released a video calling on young conservatives to "understand the real war," Fuentes and Yiannopoulos both shared it on Telegram, captioning it as an appeal to the America First movement. 

In recent weeks, as journalist Nick Martin and Right Wing Watch have noted, Yiannopoulos has deleted a number of his most vitriolic social media posts — such as one in which he calls for conservative media figure Dave Rubin to be "executed" along with his husband over their plans to have children with the help of a surrogate mother — perhaps in preparation for the announcement of his new internship with Greene. 

In recent weeks, Yiannopoulos has deleted many of his most vitriolic and homophobic social media posts. What remains on his Telegram channel feels like an MTG fan site.

What remains on Yiannopoulos' Telegram channel is largely MTG-focused: news clippings about and press releases from Greene, shared posts from her social media and photos of Yiannapoulos standing outside her office at the Capitol. Three days after the Buffalo massacre, he apparently took a bar-booth selfie of himself and Greene, with the lib-trolling caption: "At the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, discussing the rancid scourge of white supremacy over Mai Tais and lightly-fried octopus." 

Last Thursday, Yiannopoulos shared a livestream video of Greene on Rumble, in which the congresswoman explicitly praised both "Christian nationalism" and "America First nationalism." 

"Nationalism is a good thing. It's where all Americans should be. We should be wanting America First," Greene said. "We should be proud of nationalism, and we should be proud of an America First nationalism." 

For most of her time in office, Greene has tried to blur the issue of exactly what sort of "America First nationalism" she means: generic support for Trump and his policies or the more explicitly white nationalist version exemplified by Fuentes and his fellow travelers. Over the course of several days last winter, Greene hailed the Fuentes movement as defenders of the Constitution, then claimed to know nothing about them and finally defended them as a "lost generation" who have embraced the doctrine that "Christ is King." It's a similar dance to the one Yiannopoulos made his name performing: selling young conservatives on white nationalism, but delivered with a wink and cloaked in supposed irony, as a form of plausible deniability. In the end, Yiannopoulos' racism was just racism. Now that he's joined forces with Greene, her  vision of "America First nationalism" seems equally clear.

Read more on the unstoppable rise of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:


By Kathryn Joyce

Kathryn Joyce is an investigative reporter at Salon, and the author of two books: "The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption" and "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement."

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Analysis Catholic Church Church Militant Far-right Marjorie Taylor Greene Milo Yiannopoulos Reporting