Tom Flanagan: Watching Child Porn Does 'Not Harm Another Person' (VIDEO)

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Former advisor to Stephen Harper Tom Flanagan voiced support for the freedom to view child pornography on Wednesday night during at talk at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. Flanagan made headlines recently for wearing a bison-fur coat on CBC's
Former advisor to Stephen Harper Tom Flanagan voiced support for the freedom to view child pornography on Wednesday night during at talk at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. Flanagan made headlines recently for wearing a bison-fur coat on CBC's "Power & Politics." (CBC Screengrab)

Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Stephen Harper, expressed support for the freedom to watch child pornography during a talk at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta on Wednesday night.

Flanagan, who most recently made headlines for wearing a bizarre bison-fur coat on CBC, made the comments while answering a question from an audience member about a 2009 statement that child pornography is "just pictures."

"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 said. "I don't look at these pictures."

After saying that he has long been on the mailing list of the Man Boy Love Association, Flanagan made the statement that triggered the loudest jeers from the audience.

"It is a real issue of personal liberty, to what extent we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person."

Flanagan made it clear that his position differs from that of the Conservative government. He served as an adviser to Harper for many years and managed the Conservative election campaign in 2004. In 2006, he was a senior communications adviser on the campaign that brought the Tories to power.

After a a torrent of criticism, Flanagan issued a statement Thursday apologizing to those offended by his comments, according to CBC.

"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," he said. "I apologize unreservedly to all who were offended by my statement, and most especially to victims of sexual abuse and their families."

Flanagan's expression of contrition came after he was condemned by politicians and fired from his duties with CBC's "Power & Politics.

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Twitter On Flanagan And Child Porn
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Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall tweeted that Flanagan's comments were "repugnant, ignorant, and appalling."

The Alberta Wildrose Party relieved Flanagan, who had worked as campaign manager, of his duties.

"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," said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith in a statement.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford expressed similar sentiments.

"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 is perhaps best-known for his appearances on "Power & Politics." In a statement, CBC News editor in chief Jennifer McGuire said the network is ending its association with the sometimes-pundit.

Flanagan has been working as a political science professor, but the University of Calgary said he has been on scholarship leave and will be retiring at the end of June, a decision the school says he shared back in early January.

"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," the school said in a release.

Flanagan is renowned for his outspoken libertarian views, particularly on aboriginal issues.

The YouTube user Arnell Tailfeathers, who posted the clip of Flanagan's child pornography comments, also uploaded other videos on Wednesday night of Flanagan discussing Idle No More and tainted drinking water.

But it was the comments on child pornography that caused Flanagan's name to trend on Twitter Thursday. Tweets were almost universally negative, with many pointing out that the production of child pornography requires an act of child abuse.

With files from The Canadian Press

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