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Breitbart.com editor Milo Yiannopoulos announced Tuesday that he has resigned from the right-wing website following the emergence of a video in which Yiannopoulos apparently justified sexual abuse of a minor by an adult.
“I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues’ important reporting, so today I am resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately. This decision is mine alone,” he said in a statement.
Yiannopoulos, who has a long and well-known history of making virulent attacks against women, people of color, Muslims, and the transgender community, and is a key enabler of the “alt-right,” was hired by Breitbart when the site was run by Stephen Bannon, now White House chief strategist.
But it took the circulation of the video for him to finally become too toxic for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which rescinded its invitation for him to speak; Simon & Schuster, which pulled his book deal; and Breitbart, where employees were reportedly threatening to bolt if he was retained.
As Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, suggested, Yiannopoulos’ past comments were simply “controversies and disagreements among conservatives,” while “there is no disagreement among our attendees on the evils of sexual abuse of children.”
Yiannopoulos has fans at the very highest levels of the federal government. “Bannon believes in Milo,” the site’s editor-in-chief, Alexander Marlow, reportedly told The Washington Post earlier this month. “He dedicated time and resources – both personally and with his businesses – to expanding Milo’s brand.” Earlier this month, President Donald Trump attacked the University of California, Berkeley and threatened to withdraw federal funds from the university after it canceled an event featuring the Breitbart editor.
Earlier today, Marlow called the comments in the video “very troubling and upsetting” and “not defensible” and said Yiannopoulos would address “his future with Breitbart” during a press conference this afternoon.
Marlow also laid the groundwork for turning Yiannopoulos into a martyr, saying that there are “millions of examples of the left normalizing behavior similar to what Milo describes” and that Yiannopoulos is the victim of a “coordinated hit” by liberals and anti-Trump conservatives. During his press conference, Yiannopoulos likewise said that “this is a cynical media witchhunt from people who don’t care about children. They care about destroying me and my career.” He also promised to announce his own media venture and new college speaking tour dates in the coming months.
As I noted this morning, given that Breitbart is a sewer with no standards, Yiannopoulos leaving would "suggest that the website, amid a major advertiser boycott, has finally found a limit to the bad press it is willing to tolerate from one of its biggest stars. No matter what, Marlow wants to keep Yiannopoulos’ audience from leaving the website. Keeping Yiannopoulos is the best way to do that, but if that’s no longer financially viable, turning him into a martyr is the next best strategy."
Breitbart.com Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow is laying the groundwork to blame editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ critics following the emergence of a video in which Yiannopoulos apparently justified sexual abuse of a minor by an adult. According to Marlow, there are “millions of examples of the left normalizing behavior similar to what Milo describes,” and Yiannopoulos is the victim of a “coordinated hit” by liberals and anti-Trump conservatives.
The Conservative Political Action Conference rescinded Yiannopoulos’ speaking invitation and Simon & Schuster canceled the publication of his book after video circulated of Yiannopoulos “condoning pedophilia.” Yiannopoulos’ long and well-known history of making virulent attacks against women, people of color, Muslims, and the transgender community, and his role as a key enabler of the “alt-right,” were not sufficient to stop him from receiving that invitation and book contract in the first place
In an appearance this morning on the Breitbart News Daily show on SiriusXM, Marlow called the comments in the video “very troubling and upsetting” and “not defensible” and said Yiannopoulos would address “his future with Breitbart” during a press conference this afternoon. “You will get some answers today, just not right this second,” he promised his audience.
Marlow described the video as “a total surprise to people in the Breitbart organization” and repeatedly condemned the comments, but also offered what he termed important “context” for Yiannopoulos’ remarks. This included assuring the Breitbart audience that Yiannopoulos says he himself has not sexually abused minors.
Marlow, whose website supported Donald Trump during the presidential campaign even after audio emerged of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, then attacked liberals for “normalizing behavior similar to what Milo describes”:
We have many examples on the left who have admitted to statutory rape. We have Lena Dunham had in her book talking about touching her sister’s private parts as a child. We have Roman Polanski, I mean, there are millions of examples of the left normalizing behavior similar to what Milo describes. There is no evidence that Milo has actually been a predator, and so I do think that that is also very important context.
He went on to suggest that the real villains are the people who released audio of his employee apparently defending the sexual assault of minors, saying, “It does look like the forces of the left and some of the Republican establishment and of the sort of Never Trump movement, perhaps, seems to be growing evidence that this was all coordinated to wait for a peak moment when Milo was red-hot.” He added, “They sat on the story and they held it for maximum political damage, which is really sort of sickening, that they would keep this from the public if they had it, and instead try to wait until they could do the most damage to his career, and to Breitbart, and by proxy, people like Trump and [Stephen] Bannon.”
It’s hard to parse Marlow’s comments. It is possible Yiannopoulos will use his press conference to resign from Breitbart. That would suggest that the website, amid a major advertiser boycott, has finally found a limit to the bad press it is willing to tolerate from one of its biggest stars.
No matter what, Marlow wants to keep Yiannopoulos’ audience from leaving the website. Keeping Yiannopoulos is the best way to do that, but if that’s no longer financially viable, turning him into a martyr is the next best strategy.
Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which runs the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, said today that he condemns the “alt-right,” a loose affiliation of white nationalists, misogynists, and other deplorables that have gained increasing influence in the conservative movement. But don’t be too quick to congratulate him for his criticism of racists -- Schlapp will lead a Thursday CPAC panel featuring White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who has bragged about turning Breitbart.com into “the platform for the alt-right” during his tenure leading the site.
The disconnect suggests leading conservatives want to get credit for separating themselves from the “alt-right,” while still drawing on its enablers for support.
Schlapp made the comments in an interview on MSNBC in which he defended his organization’s initial decision to give Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos a platform at CPAC. Last night, Schlapp withdrew the offer after video circulated of Yiannopoulos “condoning pedophilia.”
Yiannopoulos had a long and well-known history of making virulent attacks against women, people of color, Muslims, and the transgender community, and he is a key enabler of the “alt-right.” None of those factors prevented CPAC from offering him a prominent speaking slot.
For Schlapp, Yiannopoulos’ past comments were simply “controversies and disagreements among conservatives,” while “there is no disagreement among our attendees on the evils of sexual abuse of children.” This gives the lie to the conservative argument on free speech -- criticism of commentary is just being “politically correct” until the commentary is offensive to conservatives.
At the end of Schlapp’s interview, Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough asked Schlapp if CPAC had “an official position on the alt-right.” Schlapp came out strong against the movement in response, suggesting that the “alt-right” is racist and while “there are those who flirt with it, who maybe don't fully understand it,” conservatives should want to have “nothing to do with” it. “We won't endorse it and we won't rationalize it,” he concluded.
Schlapp’s opposition to the “alt-right” is so strong that he’ll be sitting down with Bannon at a CPAC panel on Thursday:
Bannon, a revanchist ethno-nationalist who supports a “global revolt” against elites, turned Breitbart into a beloved news source and normalization engine for the “alt-right.” He bragged in July that the website had become “the platform for the alt-right.” Because of that work, white nationalists and neo-Nazis cheered when he was hired by Donald Trump's presidential campaign and praised his appointment to the White House.
While Yiannopoulos will no longer be speaking at CPAC, attendees will have seven other opportunities to hear from Breitbart staffers. Editors and reporters James Delingpole, Joel Pollak, Sonnie Johnson, Raheem Kassam, Alex Marlow, Frances Martel, and John Carney will all give speeches or lead or participate in panel discussions at CPAC, the bastion of the conservative movement that supposedly wants its members to stay away from the “alt-right.”
Breitbart has a big audience and thus is a power in the conservative movement. As Schlapp explained this morning, Yiannopoulos’ history of virulent commentary didn’t matter because “he is a big voice in this movement.” Until he said something that offended the wrong people, that was enough.
Just two days after news broke that Breitbart.com’s serial harasser Milo Yiannopoulos would speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the conference’s hosts have rescinded his speaking invitation after video circulated of Yiannopoulos “condoning pedophilia.” While CPAC is now trying to do damage control, there were any number of reasons not to elevate Yiannopoulos before the video resurfaced. And anyone familiar with Yiannopoulos’ persona -- including the leadership at CPAC -- should have known that continuing to ally themselves with a champion of the so-called “alt-right” would eventually lead to something like this.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a senior editor at Breitbart.com, the “alt-right” website formerly run by Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist (Bannon is still set to speak at CPAC this year). Yiannopoulos has spent years positioning himself as the poster boy for radical “free speech,” traveling on speaking tours and doing publicity stunts that target, hurt, and harass women, people of color, undocumented students, and the transgender community, among other already at-risk groups.
He was a key figure in the 2014 “Gamergate” harassment campaign, and was also permanently banned from Twitter for his role in the targeted online attacks on black actress Leslie Jones after she starred in an all-female remake of Ghostbusters. More recently, Yiannopoulos targeted a transgender student during an appearance on his college tour, displaying the student’s name and photo on a giant screen, as the Breitbart livestream of his speech featured a camera with crosshairs scanning across the audience (a “trigger cam”).
This behavior is typical of the Breitbart senior editor -- Yiannopoulos and his misogynist “alt-right” fans encourage each other constantly within smaller online communities, repurposing cartoons, speaking in code to one another, and seeking out new individuals to target outside of their “alt-right” white nationalist base.
CPAC was apparently ready to reward Yiannopoulos’ dangerous behavior with more speaking time at its conference than the sitting vice president was offered. On Saturday, the Hollywood Reporter broke news that Yiannopoulos was reportedly set to deliver the keynote speech at CPAC next weekend; Yiannopoulos said the speech would focus on his "experiences in America battling feminists, Black Lives Matter, the media, professors and the entertainment industry.” Some conservatives were not pleased. Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that hosts CPAC, subsequently released a statement clarifying that Yiannopoulos was not the conference’s keynote speaker but would remain one of 75 speakers in total.
Then, on Sunday night, video emerged on Twitter that “appeared to show the far-right agitator defending pedophilia.” The shared videos, in which Yiannopoulos seems to defend sexual relationships between 13-year-old boys and older men or women and joke about sexual abuse, “weren't new, they were repackaged and published on Twitter by a conservative account clearly critical of the CPAC invite.”
The conservative Twitter account behind the original video, “The Reagan Battalion,” has since posted several more videos of Yiannopoulos, including another in which he makes light of sexual assault and a longer, unedited cut as well as the full original video (in response to Yiannopoulos’ original defense that the video was “selectively edited.”) After the videos made the rounds on Twitter, more conservative figures belatedly expressed disappointment and horror at Yiannopoulos’ CPAC role. And now, just two days after the initial reports of his planned speech broke, CPAC has rescinded Yiannopoulos’ invitation due to the “offensive video.”
But Schlapp, and the larger conservative movement that’s increasingly relied on heinous “alt-right” harassment bros to drum up support, knew what they were doing when they invited Yiannopoulos to speak at their annual conference. It is worth reiterating that the Reagan Battalion videos were not new, and neither are any of the other things Milo Yiannopoulos has said and done over the years.
It’s not news that Yiannopoulos thinks the campus sexual assault epidemic is a “fantasy” or that he will say literally anything for attention, no matter how out-of-bounds. It’s not a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the “alt-right” white nationalist movement Breitbart has supported that Yiannopoulos repeatedly frames targeted harassment campaigns of transgender individuals, black women, and undocumented students as some disgusting testament to his own conveniently warped understanding of the First Amendment.
While Yiannopoulos is no longer speaking at the event, CPAC did announce another speaker on Monday: someone who was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault and then managed to win a presidential campaign.
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In a February 17 column titled “Who’s Encouraging Anti-Semitism?,” National Review contributor Jonathan S. Tobin whitewashed President Donald Trump and White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s history of promoting anti-semitic content and white nationalist voices, and blamed “leftist anti-Zionists” for the “increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.”
Though Tobin initially admitted “Trump is guilty of being tone-deaf … and of turning a blind eye to the way the alt-right has interpreted his stands,” Tobin falsely declared “neither [Stephen Bannon] nor [Breitbart.com] has been guilty of anti-Semitism,” adding Breitbart.com “hasn’t published any anti-Semitic articles”:
Trump is guilty of being tone-deaf about the way his comments are perceived, and of turning a blind eye to the way the alt-right has interpreted his stands. It’s also possible to assert that his silence about hate groups at times — especially during last year’s primary campaign — is a cynical strategy that encourages some on the far right to believe that Trump is on their side.
But even if we were to concede all of this, the case for Trump or even senior aide Steve Bannon (who is viewed by many liberals as the evil genius plotting to promote hate from his new lair in the West Wing) being an anti-Semite doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. While the new administration can be fairly blamed for a multitude of shortcomings, the notion that Trump is the one who opened the Pandora’s box of Jew-hatred sweeping across the globe is simply wrong.
Part of the reason why Trump is associated with anti-Semitism stems from the modern trope in which everything and everyone that some on the left dislike can wind up being called Hitler. Classic anti-Semites on the right who promote forms of traditional Jew-hatred have gained more notice in the last year because of their connection with an invigorated alt-right. But such people have no role in the Trump administration, nor are they likely to. His use of the slogan “America First” has a historical precedent in pre–WWII isolationism, which was compromised by anti-Semitism, but that is something that has meaning for some in the Jewish community and few others. Attempts to link his immigration executive orders to the Holocaust are specious and a partisan effort to confuse policy differences with prejudice. Bannon and the Breitbart website bear some blame for the encouragement of the worst elements among Trump’s backers, but neither the man nor the publication has been guilty of anti-Semitism. Like Trump, Breitbart has a record of support for Israel, and it hasn’t published any anti-Semitic articles.
More importantly, what those who are wringing their hands about the rise in anti-Semitic incidents forget is that the primary factor behind such hate crimes isn’t the things Donald Trump says or doesn’t say. If there is a “rising tide of anti-Semitism,” as the Obama State Department noted in recent years, sweeping across Europe and now seeking footholds in the United States, it is not driven by the alt-right but by Islamists and leftist anti-Zionists who seek to single out Jews and supporters of Israel for opprobrium and violence. The BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement, which seeks to wage economic war on the state of Israel, has been directly responsible for an increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. Its support comes from the left and has a connection to the increasingly vocal and influential wing of the Democratic party that is deeply critical of Israel and willing at times to engage in speech that singles out Jews as part of an alleged cabal of Zionists seeking to manipulate American foreign policy against the best interests of the United States.
Tobin’s defense of Bannon ignores Bannon’s prior boast that Breitbart News is “the platform for the alt-right,” referring to a movement created and defined by anti-semitic white nationalists. Tobin also neglected to mention claims made by Bannon’s ex-wife in a sworn court declaration in which she alleged Bannon had criticized The Archer School for Girls for “the number of Jews that attend,” had told her “he doesn’t like jews and … the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats,” and declared Bannon “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”
Under Bannon’s editorial leadership, Breitbart.com has employed a white nationalist reporter that complained “in this country we have 50 rabbis in the Guardian saying if we don’t accept millions [of refugees] we’re Hitler,” as well as a columnist that planned to speak at a white nationalist conference.
Bannon’s Breitbart.com is additionally responsible for headlines like “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” and an author’s decision to attack Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum by declaring “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.”
Furthermore, Tobin neglected to mention Trump’s constant courtship of the white supremacist movement which has included the Trump campaign giving interviews to white nationalist radio, giving press credentials to white nationalist outlets, and Trump and his surrogates’ continuous retweeting of white nationalists on Twitter.
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A study reported in The Washington Post found that voter ID laws disenfranchise minority voters disproportionately, an allegation right-wing media have dismissed while advocating for those types of laws in several states. Courts and other studies have come to the same conclusion.
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The Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) annual Year in Hate report detailed the rise in white nationalist and neo-Nazi media outlets and figures in 2016 during now-President Donald Trump’s campaign. The report noted that Trump’s run “electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.”
Since the inauguration, white nationalist and neo-Nazi media outlets and figures have openly celebrated Trump and many of his appointments and policies, just as they did during the 2016 campaign. Rather than renounce their support, Trump and his team have had repeated, disturbing interactions with white nationalists, such as engaging with them on Twitter and giving them press credentials.
The SPLC’s 2016 Year in Hate report detailed how “Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.” One faction of that group, according to the report, is the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, which became the “top hate site in America.” During the campaign, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin said that “Jews, Blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected … This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man.” In April, Anglin said the “hoax” Holocaust memorial in Berlin should be replaced “with a statue of Hitler 1,000 feet tall”:
The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.”
Several new and energetic groups appeared last year that were almost entirely focused on Trump and seemed to live off his candidacy. They included Identity Evropa, a campus-oriented group based in California; The Right Stuff, based in New York; and American Vanguard, a group with 12 chapters. And The Daily Stormer, the website whose chief came up with the term “Our Glorious Leader” for Trump, expanded into real-world activism by starting 31 “clubs.” In July, it became the most visited hate site on the Internet, surpassing longtime hate leader Stormfront.
Aside from the rise of Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer site and its real-world “clubs” — new chapters that profited directly from the Trump phenomenon — the year on the neo-Nazi scene was marked by a number of attempts to build new coalitions among groups. Several of them, like the Coalition of Aryan Organizations and the United Aryan Front, collapsed almost as quickly as they appeared.
The report also addressed Trump’s mainstreaming of racist and far-right media, including credentialing white nationalist figures for his events and hiring former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon as White House chief strategist. SPLC labeled Breitbart as a “far-right media outlet known for promoting the so-called ‘alternative right,’” which it noted was a “recent rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes”:
[Trump] kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites. He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.
Most remarkable of all was his choice as chief strategic adviser of Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet known for promoting the so-called “alternative right” — fundamentally, a recent rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes, albeit one that de-emphasizes Klan robes and Nazi symbols in favor of a more “intellectual” approach. With Bannon’s appointment, white nationalists felt they had a man inside the White House.
According to the report, Ku Klux Klan groups “received a great deal of media attention" during the campaign, "due largely to the fact that many of their leaders backed Donald Trump’s candidacy.” The report continued that the increased media attention emboldened “America’s best known (former) Klan leader” David Duke to “launch his latest bid for political office”:
Klan groups last year received a great deal of media attention, due largely to the fact that many of their leaders backed Donald Trump’s candidacy. David Duke, easily America’s best known (former) Klan leader, spoke repeatedly of his support for Trump, saying at one point, “I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years.”
Trump at first declined to denounce or disavow Duke, saying, falsely, that he did not know anything about him. (In fact, Trump had written in a 2000 New York Times op-ed that he abandoned his exploration of a presidential bid with the Reform Party that year because of Duke and two fellow extremists who were involved with the party.) But in the end, pressed by the media, he weakly disavowed Duke.
Nevertheless, Duke took advantage of the media attention he received to launch his latest bid for political office. Last July, he announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). But he lost badly in the open November primary, coming in seventh with 3% of the vote, or 58,581 votes.
Conway Account To Anti-Semitic/White Nationalist Account: “Love You Back”
Kellyanne Conway, who serves as one of President Donald Trump’s main media surrogates, tweeted -- and subsequently deleted -- a Valentine’s Day message to a white nationalist Twitter account that has posted anti-Semitic and racist messages. Conway’s message is yet another example of the Trump team sending a nod to its supporters in white nationalist media.
As Media Matters has documented, Trump and his advisers have engaged in a disturbing courtship with the racist white nationalist movement. They have repeatedly retweeted white supremacist messages and accounts, such as “WhiteGenocideTM”; surrogates have directly courted white nationalists by giving interviews to white nationalist media outlets; and Trump’s team gave press credentials to a “pro-white” radio host to cover a rally. Trump has also appointed officials who are popular among members of the movement, including senior adviser Stephen Bannon.
The courtship has had its desired effect with white nationalist media: They have heavily defended Trump and his policies and harassed journalists who have questioned the president. White nationalist writers have also cited Trump and his team’s Twitter messages -- whether later deleted or not -- as a signal that the administration agrees with white nationalist policies.
The account @TrumpTrainNoBrk tweeted at Conway on February 14: “Your strength & resiliency in face of vile hatred, bigotry, & sexism of the unhinged Left is a daily inspiration! Love you!” In a since-deleted tweet, Conway responded:
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Conway implied she didn't send the tweet, claiming she didn’t “know who had access to my account. ... Let me see who sent this.” She added, “I denounce whoever it is. It will be immediately deleted. Everybody makes mistakes.”
The account’s white nationalist orientation is clear from just a cursory glance. The account has a cartoon frog next to its name. The frog represents Pepe, which has become the mascot for white nationalists and anti-Semites. The account's bio also says "#WhiteIdentity." As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted, members of the racist “alt-right” movement have been claiming “that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”
@TrumpTrainNoBrk responded to a BuzzFeed reporter noting that Conway had just retweeted “a white nationalist” by writing, “#WhiteIdentity is a right, not bigotry, despite how much Marxists like you hate it.”
@TrumpTrainNoBrk has repeatedly tweeted or retweeted white nationalist themes about Jewish people, African-Americans, and “white genocide.” The account claimed: “By far the angriest, most aggressive tweets I get are from low-IQ black women... I wonder why?” and wrote that it posts “black on white violent crime stats” so African-Americans “will stop murder/raping us.”
[Post black on white violent crime stats here]
Yup, we definitely need to listen better, maybe u will stop murder/raping us
— Lib Hypocrisy (@TrumpTrainNoBrk) February 9, 2017
@TrumpTrainNoBrk tweeted or retweeted of Jewish people:
@TrumpTrainNoBrk tweeted or retweeted about “white genocide”:
We need to save the 5 million white refugees of South Africa. Literally no one else will #WhiteGenocide
— Lib Hypocrisy (@TrumpTrainNoBrk) February 9, 2017