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Mumford & Sons member quits the band, citing book controversy and apology backlash

A man with a banjo stands on a stage
Winston Marshall, pictured above in 2019, is leaving Mumford & Sons after a political dust-up on social media.
(Amy Harris / Invision / Associated Press)

Winston Marshall, the banjo player and lead guitarist from English folk rock quartet Mumford & Sons, announced Thursday that he’s leaving the band.

In a Medium post, Marshall explained how his initial praise of a right-wing writer’s book — and his subsequent apology for it — landed him and his bandmates in hot water. Though Marshall temporarily stepped away from Mumford & Sons in March, the musician determined that his permanent departure was best for the group.

“The only way forward for me is to leave the band,” he wrote. “I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences.”

It all began with a tweet. Less than a week before his temporary leave, Marshall shared, “Congratulations @MrAndyNgo. Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man,” referring to Ngo’s 2021 book “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.”

Mumford & Sons banjo player Winston Marshall apologizes and deletes a tweet calling Andy Ngo’s new antifa tome an “important book.”

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On Medium, the musician insisted that the review wasn’t out of the ordinary: “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,” he explained. “How wrong I turned out to be.”

The online backlash that ensued affected not only Marshall, but the rest of his bandmates, who were likened in some cases to “Nazi sympathizers.” Marshall explained in his departure letter that he rejects the “abhorrent Far-Right,” and that 13 of his family members were murdered in Holocaust concentration camps.

When Marshall apologized for the review, citing fear for his group mates and their families, the flak continued: He was seen as “caving to the mob.”

Ultimately, Marshall stood by his initial praise (“reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave”), while distancing himself from a political stance (“my commenting the extreme Far-Left and their activities is in no way an endorsement of the equally repugnant Far-Right”), and teasing future speaking and writing projects in the hopes of putting an end to what he called self-censorship.

Now the only entry in his since-emptied Twitter profile, Marshall’s letter sparked mixed reviews. Those in support applauded the musician, citing the departure as the latest casualty of censorship and “cancel culture.” “The View” host Meghan McCain and Five for Fighting songwriter John Ondrasik shared their praise online, with Ondrasik telling Marshall that FFF would “be honored brother” if he ever wanted to sit in on a future tour.

Critics took a decidedly less sympathetic tone. Said one user, “The other members need to turn in their resignations too.”

In his review of Ngo’s book for the Los Angeles Times, journalist Alexander Nazaryan called the work a “false-equivalence manifesto” in which “distortions and untruths hover like flies around every shred of confirmable fact.”


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