OTTAWA Feb 28 The Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office quickly
distanced themselves from former Harper aide Tom Flanagan on
Wednesday after the political commentator said viewing child
pornography did not harm others.
Flanagan was a campaign manager and chief of staff for
Harper or the Conservative Party at various times before the
Conservatives took power in 2006, and has long been a
commentator for CBC.
At a seminar at Alberta's University of Lethbridge on
Wednesday, he took issue with the Conservative "jihad" on child
The CBC dumped him as a political commentator and Harper
spokesman Andrew MacDougall said his remarks were repugnant and
did not reflect the Conservative government's view.
"...you know a lot of people on my side of the spectrum, a
certain side of the spectrum, are bent on kind of a jihad
against pornography and child pornography in particular, and I
certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have
some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their
taste in pictures," Flanagan, a political scientist at the
University of Calgary, told the seminar on Wednesday night.
He said there was a real issue as "to what extent we put
people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm
Flanagan apologized, but not before the CBC fired him and
Alberta's conservative Wildrose Party, for which he was campaign
manager last year, said he would have no future role.
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire said: "While we
support and encourage free speech across the country and a
diverse range of voices, we believe Mr. Flanagan's comments to
have crossed the line and impacted his credibility as a
commentator for us."
MacDougall tweeted: "Tom Flanagan's comments on child
pornography are repugnant, ignorant, and appalling."
In a later statement, MacDougall noted Conservative measures
to toughen penalties for making or accessing child porn, and
said Flanagan had not represented government views for some
"The tragic reality is that child pornography hurts
children. Pedophiles abuse children, and then trade these
pictures on the Internet. Once online, these images haunt
victims long after the sexual abuse occurs," MacDougall said.
Flanagan in a statement condemned the sexual abuse of
children and the use of children to produce pornography, but
drew a distinction between that and the use of porn.
"Last night, in an academic setting, I raised a theoretical
question about how far criminalization should extend toward the
consumption of pornography," he said.
"My words were badly chosen, and in the resulting uproar I
was not able to express my abhorrence of child pornography and
the sexual abuse of children. I apologize unreservedly to all
who were offended by my statement, and most especially to
victims of sexual abuse and their families."
(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Vicki Allen)