Former Stephen Harper strategist Tom Flanagan is reportedly apologizing to anyone offended by his suggestion that people who view child pornography should not be jailed.
In a statement attributed to Flanagan and posted on the CBC website, the frequent panellist on the network said he absolutely condemns child sex abuse and he chose his words poorly while discussing the matter in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday evening.
"In an academic setting, I raised a theoretical question about how far criminalization should extend toward the consumption of pornography,'' reads the statement posted on the blog of Kady
O'Malley, also often a panellist on the News Network show "Power and Politics.''
"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.''
Flanagan, who is a professor at the University of Calgary, was giving a lecture on the Indian Act at the University of Lethbridge, hosted by the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs.
Flanagan has written several books about aboriginal issues and believes the government should allow property rights on reserves.
In a video from the lecture posted on YouTube, Flanagan is asked about remarks he made regarding child pornography in 2009.
"I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters,'' he responded.
"But I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures,'' he said as the audience booed.
He went on to explain that he doesn't look at such pictures, but he was once put on a mailing list of the National Man/Boy Love Association.
"We put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person,'' he said. "So it is a real issue of personal liberty.''
The heckling turned to shots at the Conservative government.
"I'm not part of the Conservative government,'' Flanagan said.
"I have some doubts about some of the Conservative justice initiatives.''
Calls and emails to Flanagan were not returned.
The CBC quickly dumped Flanagan as news of his remarks spread.
In a statement, CBC editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire said the bbroadcaster is ending its association with Flanagan.
"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,'' she said.
The University of Calgary distanced itself from him.
"Tom Flanagan has been on a research and scholarship leave from the University of Calgary since January of 2013,'' the school said in a release.
"In the university's view, child pornography is not a victimless crime. All aspects of this horrific crime involve the exploitation of children. Viewing pictures serves to create more demand for these terrible images, which leads to further exploitation of defenceless children.''
Flanagan managed the 2012 Wildrose election campaign in Alberta and Leader Danielle Smith put out a statement denouncing him.
"There is no language strong enough to condemn Dr. Flanagan's comments. Child pornography is a despicable crime that seriously harms all those involved, including the viewer,'' Smith said.
"To be clear, Dr. Flanagan does not speak for me or the Wildrose caucus and he will have no role — formal or informal — with our organization going forward.''
Premier Alison Redford was equally disgusted.
"It turned my stomach,'' she said. ``I am absolutely disgusted by it. I think it is a perfect example of people who take ideological arguments too far.''
Flanagan's connections to Harper go back to Reform party days when the two were key policy advisers for the fledgling party.
Flanagan twice served as Harper's leadership campaign director and also ran the 2004 federal Conservative election campaign.
He later wrote a tell-all book called "Harper's Team'' that revealed Conservative party tactics and strategies and estranged Flanagan from the prime minister.
Andrew MacDougall, a staff member in the Prime Minister's Office, btweeted his disgust.
"Tom Flanagan's comments on child pornography are repugnant, ignorant, and appalling,'' he wrote.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued a statement using the same line.