The rightwing writer and internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos has apologised for mismanaging a “privilege grant” college scholarship fund for white men.
Yiannopoulos admitted on Friday he had missed a deadline to turn donations into bursaries but denied speculation he had spent the cash.
“This is very overdue, and I do apologise for this very sincerely. We did pass our deadline I’m sorry to say … as a result of over-eagerness and just being completely overwhelmed by the volume of interest in it and the various things on my plate,” he said in an audio show posted on YouTube.
He blamed a busy schedule. “This is entirely my fault. I have been, as many of you know, overtaken and overwhelmed and overburdened by my own success.”
Yiannopoulos, 32, the technology editor for Breitbart.com, has raised his profile in recent months by hounding the Ghostbuster actor Leslie Jones, which earned him a ban from Twitter, and by championing the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, whom he calls “daddy”.
He said donations were still in his bank account and would be spent, as originally promised, exclusively on white men to balance scholarships for women and ethnic minorities. He also promised to register the fund as a legal charity.
Yiannopoulos did not respond to a Guardian interview request.
The British provocateur set up the Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant in January. Originally intended as a publicity stunt, according to one source involved, it became real when Yiannopoulos subsequently hosted a donation telethon.
“American college campuses have changed and demographics once considered disadvantaged are no longer held back by racial, homophobic or sexist bias. Research now suggests that low-income caucasian males are the most in need of help,” said the grant’s website.
Donations total about $100,000 and pledges about another $250,000, Yiannopoulos told The Daily Beast.
Scrutiny began this week after Margaret MacLennan, who was hired as the bursary’s director, posted criticisms on social media, saying it was mismanaged and that she was no longer involved.
Speaking from her home in Canada, the YouTube personality told the Guardian that Yiannopoulos set up the fund in part to emulate the singer Mariah Carey, who sponsors scholarships. “He told me that he wanted every dollar given by donors to the grant to go to students and that he would pay for administrative and legal costs (including me) out of his own pocket.”
MacLennan said she received all the form letters and emails sent to the grant and knew donations were coming in. “But it’s impossible to guess how much was raised or to guess at the current status of the fund. There are probably only two or three people who know.”
She dropped out in late March, she said, because she was not paid and “movement on the grant had hit a wall”.
MacLennan said she aired criticism publicly to preempt any accusations of bungling or wrongdoing on her part. “After getting feedback from his former worker bees at other outlets, I’m concerned about potential personal and professional fallout.”
An intermediary for Yiannopoulos recently offered her $500, she said. “Since I was unable to verify that the money would indeed be coming from Milo’s pocket and not from the donors, I politely declined.”
The grant’s site continued listing MacLennan as its director until Thursday.
Earlier this week Blaire White, another YouTube personality who participated in the telethon, complained about uncertainty over the fund, tweeting that she felt duped. “People need an explanation. Tons of money collected.”
On his YouTube clip the alt-right personality laughed off “conspiracy theories” about why the fund had stalled, including a claim that he had spent $250,000 on drugs. “I only wish I could get that much up my nose.”
He introduced a new fund administrator, Colin Madine, who said a pilot grant would begin next spring, followed by full disbursement in the 2017/18 school year.
“We are getting on track, getting everything sorted, making sure the money goes to the people who deserve it,” said Yiannopoulos. “This is what happens when I get competent people around me.”
The flap echoed elements of the controversy over Trump’s fundraising for veterans. The GOP candidate announced in January he had raised $6m but months later many groups said they had to see any money, prompting an outcry and eventual payment by Trump.