On Thursday, BuzzFeed News published an exposé detailing how former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos injected white supremacist ideology into the heart of the publication. Based on a massive cache of the right-wing media celebrity’s emails, it also revealed personal communications between Yiannopoulos and supposedly liberal journalists who were friendly toward his alt-right crusade.
Now, one of the tipsters, Mitchell Sunderland—a senior writer for Vice’s women’s interest vertical Broadly—has been fired for feeding Yiannopoulos ideas for anti-feminist articles. Sunderland was seen exiting Vice’s Los Angeles office carrying a box of his belongings Thursday night, a Vice staffer told Splinter, and a company spokesperson confirmed on Friday that Sunderland was let go.
The BuzzFeed story sheds unprecedented light on Yiannopoulos’ writing process, including how he frequently bounced ideas off of conservative intellectuals and white supremacist media figures. Both he and Sunderland were members of what BuzzFeed described as a “long-running email group devoted to mocking stories about the social justice internet.” The latter also messaged Yiannopoulos directly with at least two potential story ideas.
“Please mock this fat feminist,” Sunderland wrote to Yiannopoulos in May 2016, along with a link to an article by the New York Times columnist Lindy West, who frequently writes about fat acceptance. And while Sunderland was Broadly’s managing editor, he sent a Broadly video about the Satanic Temple and abortion rights to Tim Gionet with instructions to “do whatever with this on Breitbart. It’s insane.” The next day, Breitbart published an article titled “‘Satanic Temple’ Joins Planned Parenthood in Pro-Abortion Crusade.”
West responded to the article in a Facebook post Thursday: “Fuck Vice. Mitchell was doing that shit in public the whole time. Fuck everyone who didn’t listen to us.”
Sunderland was indeed open about knowing Yiannopoulos personally. But his emails with potential story ideas would appear to contradict the mission of the Vice vertical where he wrote and edited. Broadly’s “About” page describes it as “devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences...we provide a sustained focus on the issues that matter most to women.”
“We are shocked and disappointed by this highly inappropriate and unprofessional conduct,” said a Vice spokesperson quoted by BuzzFeed on Thursday. “We just learned about this and have begun a formal review into the matter.” That review apparently took just a matter of hours.
BuzzFeed also cited communications between Yiannopoulos and Dan Lyons—a tech writer and editor who worked on HBO’s Silicon Valley and briefly edited former Gawker Media tech site Valleywag—and former Slate tech writer David Auerbach. Aside from airing such dirty laundry, the story illustrated how Breitbart chief and Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, orchestrated Yiannopoulos’ rise as an alt-right icon constantly overstepping boundaries on race, gender, and religion. The Breitbart star was eventually forced to resign from the outlet in February after a video of him appearing to endorse pedophilia surfaced online.
Sunderland has not yet responded to an email seeking comment. I’ve also reached out to Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which Sunderland has said is publishing his book about dog breeders. I’ll update this post with any additional responses.