By Mike Miller
September 03, 2018 at 07:34 PM EDT

The New Yorker Festival has dropped Steve Bannon as a headliner after Jim Carrey, Judd Apatow, John Mulaney, and other famous panelists pulled out of the event in protest.

While the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, defended the idea of interviewing Bannon at length, he said in a statement Monday, “I’ve thought this through and talked to colleagues  —  and I’ve reconsidered. I’ve changed my mind. There is a better way to do this. Our writers have interviewed Steve Bannon for The New Yorker before, and if the opportunity presents itself I’ll interview him in a more traditionally journalistic setting as we first discussed, and not on stage.”

Remnick laid out his reasoning for making Bannon a headliner throughout the memo, arguing that “to interview Bannon is not to endorse him,” and that “by conducting an interview with one of Trumpism’s leading creators and organizers, we are hardly pulling him out of obscurity.”

Remnick changed course only after “many of our readers, including some colleagues” pointed out that “the Festival is different, a different kind of forum” than a traditional interview. “It’s also true that we pay an honorarium, that we pay for travel and lodging. (Which does not happen, of course, when we interview someone for an article or for the radio.),” he added. “I don’t want well-meaning readers and staff members to think that I’ve ignored their concerns.”

Remnick’s statement, which was first sent to staffers and then published online, came shortly after some of the festival’s high-profile panelists began to drop out. Mulaney was first to pull the plug, tweeting, “I’m out.” He added, “I genuinely support public intellectual debate, and have paid to see people speak with whom I strongly disagree. But this isn’t James Baldwin vs William F Buckley. This is PT Barnum level horses—. And it was announced on a weekend just before tix went on sale.”

Apatow dropped out next, writing, “If Steve Bannon is at the New Yorker festival I am out. I will not take part in an event that normalizes hate. I hope the @NewYorker will do the right thing and cancel the Steve Bannon event. Maybe they should read their own reporting about his ideology.”

Carrey then confirmed his own exit with, “Bannon? And me? On the same program? Could never happen.” And musician Jack Antonoff wrote, “I’m no longer going to be speaking/performing at the new yorker festival as long as Steve Bannon is there.”

Bannon, a former senior adviser to the president, had been scheduled to sit down with Remnick for a conversation dubbed “The Ideology of Trumpism.”

In further tweets, Antonoff echoed Mulaney’s complaint about Bannon’s last-minute addition. “Found out about Bannon’s inclusion when you did. I would have appreciated to make a decision on this before it was announced. I would ask the New Yorker to consider in the future that participants in the festival deserve to make a choice to appear alongside someone this hateful.”

He added, “I always saw The New Yorker Festival as a wonderful moment to celebrate culture. So when they told me it would Kacey Musgraves, Zadie Smith and Mike Birbiglia etc — I was all in. Steve Bannon — respectfully that’s a full no for me and normalization of white supremacy.”

Apatow later reacted to Carrey’s resignation, writing, “Sounds like @JimCarrey is out too. Maybe they could do an event about child separation and immigration policy and ways to help those poor children.”

After Remnick changed his mind, Apatow celebrated, tweeting, “That is very good news. There is no reason to have a hateful person at this festival. Thank you @NewYorker for listening and making an adjustment.”

The New Yorker’s handling of the controversy has also been criticized. “Either way, huge win for Bannon. Once invited, he’d get either attention and legitimization OR attention and claim to victimization. I’d guess he’d prefer the latter, which is what he now has been gifted,” Turkish writer Zeynep Tufekci tweeted.

Apatow responded to one critic who wrote, “The more I sit with this, the more troubled I am. This is such an important dialogue, one that needs to happen. It’s really upsetting to see so-called ‘progressive’ voices using their platforms to lobby for censorship. You’re way off on this one, Judd.”

The producer replied, “He was on @msnbc a few weeks ago. Go watch it online if you are hungering for Steve Bannon’s POV.” He wrote to another detractor, “You don’t understand Bannon’s perspective by now? This guy hasn’t shut up for a decade. There’s almost nobody who needs the press less. That festival is a celebration. We love it. No one wants to share it with someone who joyfully destroys people’s lives. I’m glad he’s off it.”