Mumford & Sons guitarist-banjo player Winston Marshall announced on Thursday (June 24) that he is leaving the group in the wake of the controversy over his tweet in support of the book Unmasked.
Marshall, 33, who’s been in the folk-rock group for 14 years, explained his decision in a lengthy Medium post entitled “Why I’m Leaving Mumford & Sons.” The move came three months after he received backlash after he referred to divisive right-wing provocateur Andy Ngo as a “brave man” for his book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.
“At the beginning of March I tweeted to American journalist Andy Ngo, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Unmasked,” he wrote. “‘Congratulations @MrAndyNgo. Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man.’ Posting about books had been a theme of my social-media throughout the pandemic. I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others. How wrong I turned out to be.”
Marshall later deleted the tweet and apologized for endorsing what could be seen as “approvals of hateful, divisive behavior.”
He said that he received thousands of angry retweets and comments afterward and had failed to foresee that his tweet about the book could be seen as an approval of the Far Right. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Thirteen members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust,” he wrote. “My Grandma, unlike her cousins, aunts and uncles, survived. She and I were close. My family knows the evils of fascism painfully well. To say the least. To call me ‘fascist’ was ludicrous beyond belief.”
In his post, Marshall reminisced about the exciting early days of touring with the group and their rapid rise to success, explaining that stepping away from his talented mates was “no easy decision.” But after seeing the level of distress his tweet caused to his bandmates, he said he had no choice. “Despite being four individuals we were, in the eyes of the public, a unity. Furthermore it’s our singer’s name on the tin,” he said of lead singer Marcus Mumford.
“That name was being dragged through some pretty ugly accusations, as a result of my tweet. The distress brought to them and their families that weekend I regret very much. I remain sincerely sorry for that. Unintentionally, I had pulled them into a divisive and totemic issue.”
And though he said they asked him to carry on with the band despite pressure to cut bait, after a public apology meant to protect his bandmates and an earlier decision to “step back” from the group, he claimed another “viral mob” descended on him following the mea culpa. Marshall noted that he considers himself more “centrist” or “liberal” than conservative, and that he was open to the idea that “maybe I did not know something about the author or his work.”
“I have spent much time reflecting, reading and listening. The truth is that my commenting on a book that documents the extreme Far-Left and their activities is in no way an endorsement of the equally repugnant Far-Right,” Marshall wrote. “The truth is that reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave. I also feel that my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good.”
In the end, Marshall said that speaking freely and not “self-censor[ing]” would only bring more trouble to the band, and “erode my sense of integrity [and] gnaw my conscience.” And so, he felt he had to cut ties. “I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences,” he wrote. “I leave with love in my heart and I wish those three boys nothing but the best. I have no doubt that their stars will shine long into the future.”
His future plans include working with his charity, Hong Kong Link Up, which seeks to integrate Hong Kong natives who’ve moved to Britain.
The group posted a photo on Instagram on Thursday with the caption, “We wish you all the best for the future, Win, and we love you man.” It was signed by remaining members Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane.