Billionaire Trump backer cuts ties with Milo Yiannopoulos

Billionaire Trump backer cuts ties with Milo Yiannopoulos
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Billionaire hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer, a long-time funder of pro-Trump causes, sought to distance himself Thursday from provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon.

Mercer's decision to cut ties with Yiannopoulos and criticize Bannon follows reporting on Yiannopoulos that revealed connections to white supremacists.

Mercer has long been a supporter of Breitbart, and documents related to Yiannopoulos's own company suggested that Mercer was involved in its funding.  

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In his letter, Mercer also announced that he was resigning as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies. 

In the letter obtained by Bloomberg announcing that he would step down as his hedge fund's co-CEO effective Jan. 1, Mercer also said he would also sell his share in Breitbart News to his daughter Rebekah, another prominent conservative donor and Bannon backer.

"I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him," Mercer wrote. "However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon's."

He delivered an even more pointed criticism of Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart editor, who has repeatedly been the subject of intense public furor and controversy. Mercer said that he had initially backed Yiannopoulos in hopes of challenging political correctness and efforts by U.S. colleges and universities to "throttle" free speech.

"But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate," he wrote. "I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him."

In a statement after losing Mercer's backing, Yiannopoulos thanked the billionaire for his previous support.

“I am grateful for Bob’s help in getting me this far in my career," Yiannopoulos said. "I wish him and the family all the best.” 

Yiannopoulos has frequently been surrounded by controversy. He resigned from Breitbart earlier this year after video surfaced of Yiannopoulos making comments about statutory rape. Yiannopoulos's planned "Free Speech Week" in Berkeley, Calif., fizzled in September amid organizational dysfunction.

Larry Solov, the president and CEO of Breitbart, revealed earlier this year that the Mercers were part owners of the conservative website. Robert and Rebekah Mercer both poured millions of dollars into President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE's 2016 election bid.