Breaking News Emails
A charity meant to provide college scholarships for white men started by Milo Yiannopoulos, self-described libertarian and professional internet troll, has shuttered its operations, Yiannopoulos confirmed to NBC News.
After two years and multiple scandals that include allegations from former employees of mismanagement, the most basic details of the $100,000 Privilege Grant Foundation fund — its donations, disbursements, and scholarship winners — remain a mystery.
Its failure is just the most recent in a string of setbacks that have derailed the self-styled provocateur, who was one of the earliest and most notorious figures inside the so-called alt-right conservative movement.
“At present, the Privilege Grant is not accepting new applications or donations,” Yiannopoulos said in a statement sent by texts to NBC News. “What started as a social experiment that also did some good — winding up social justice warriors while also sending poor kids to college — became fodder for disingenuous, mouth-breathing retards in the press to baselessly accuse me of ‘white nationalism.’ As a gay man happily married to an African-American, I got tired of explaining to my husband why people on the TV kept calling me a racist," Yiannopoulos wrote.
“Public donations to the Grant have been allocated to worthy recipients, and we are in the process of distributing the final awards," he told NBC News. "We are also discussing what form future activities may take, and under whose leadership they might proceed. The Grant remains a 501(c)(3) charity in good standing with the IRS.”
Yiannopoulos declined to provide details surrounding donations or disbursements, and declined to answer follow-up questions on the record.
The scholarship fund was launched in January 2016 by Yiannopoulos, then a technology editor at Breitbart News, and billed as "exclusively available to white men who wish to pursue their post-secondary education on equal footing with their female, queer, and ethnic minority classmates."
At the time, Yiannopoulos said the scholarships would be paid for by himself and other private donors, but declined to detail for NBC News both how much money he had contributed and raised for his charity. In 2016 he told The Daily Beast there was between $100,000 and $250,000 in the fund’s coffers.
Yiannopoulos also declined to provide information on the number of recipients or their identities. In January 2016, Yiannopoulos told Breitbart News he planned to give out 50 grants. In a later fundraiser, a five-hour “#MiloGivesBack” livestream, Yiannopoulos said the grants would number 100.
By August 2016, the same summer that he was permanently banned from Twitter for harassing Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, Yiannopoulos still hadn’t handed out a dime, provided a means for needy men to apply, nor even filed the necessary paperwork to become a recognized tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.
After the foundation’s director, right-wing gossip blogger Margaret MacLennan, began tweeting allegations that donations to the fund were actually going into Yiannopoulos’s pockets, a livestream participant demanded transparency over the “tons of money” raised during the telethon, and a report on his mismanagement of the fund was published in The Guardian. A later piece in Mic alleged the money had “disappeared down a rabbit hole of private bank accounts and apparent shell companies.”
Things looked bleak for the future of the Privilege Grant Foundation. Then in December 2016, it seemed Yiannopoulos had finally found a way to make his charity happen. He announced in a blog post that he had formed a partnership with a wealthy donor who had secured a “top Washington firm” willing to assist with the “difficult and costly process” of applying for federal nonprofit status.
An IRS spokesperson told NBC News the typical processing time for 501(c)(3) applications is between 90 and 180 days, and the cost to file for federal tax exempt status is between $275 and $600, depending on the form.
The new partnership seemed to work. In January 2017, one year after forming and allegedly raising money for his charity, Yiannopoulos announced that funds would begin flowing in the form of college scholarships to white, low-income men. He said the $2,500 grants from the “pilot program” would go to far fewer than the 100 white men he had initially suggested — just 10 people. Still, he said, the grants would help “level the playing field."
Career in freefall
However, while things were finally going well for his foundation, Yiannopoulos’ career was crashing down around him. In February 2017, he was forced to resign from Breitbart after a video emerged online in which he seemed to endorse sex between older men and boys as young as 13. He quickly held a news conference where he apologized for the comments, saying he was "horrified" that anyone would think he supported pedophilia. But the damage was done.
In the aftermath, the conservative CPAC conference disinvited Yiannopoulos’ from his speaking gig and Simon & Schuster canceled the forthcoming publication of an autobiography — for which he had received a staggering $250,000 advance.
While all of this was happening, Yiannopoulous' scholarship fund was being managed by an anti-feminist blogger who goes by the pseudonym Janet Bloomfield (also known on the internet as “Judgy Bitch”). Bloomfield, a small, but vocal figure in the Men’s Rights community, is known for her penchant for trolling feminists online — she was suspended from Twitter in 2016 after donning blackface, calling Beyoncé a “feral thug,” and warning the singer's fans that she would have them "lynched.”
Controversy aside, Bloomfield’s appointment seemed to speed up the charity’s operation.
“Trying to give away money is actually really hard to do,” Bloomfield told NBC News. “It’s hard to do that legally," and just the application process was a slog, she said. “I went through 40,000 applications.”
The final outcome
Three months after the call for applications, the only tangible evidence of any disbursement is a post on the foundation’s now-defunct website that lists grant recipients — by first name, college major, and state only.
A request for further identification of winners was denied, with both Yiannopoulos and Bloomfield citing privacy for the grant recipients. NBC News could not independently verify the awards. No person has ever publicly identified himself as a grantee. The foundation has yet to file an annual report to the IRS that might shed light on the fund’s expenditures.
In announcing the winners, Yiannopoulos also promised that a “second round” of grants would be made in 2017. But it seems an additional set of Yiannopoulos scholars was never meant to be.
“It’s a shame we had to wind things down,” Yiannopoulos said in his statement. “After the dust had settled on the joke I realized there were tens of thousands of aspiring young men who could have benefited from the Grant. That’s why I committed money to it personally and through my management company. But media reports deliberately misrepresenting the charity as an expression of alt-right neo-Nazism made fundraising and hiring impossible. I’m tempted to say ‘I hope those reporters are proud of themselves’ — but sadly, I know they are.”
Bloomfield told NBC News that despite the original mission, two of the recipients were not “technically” white, noting that grants had gone to “a half Asian” and “a young Orthodox Jew.”