ALBERTA

University Of Calgary Says Tom Flanagan Retiring After Controversial Child Porn Comments

03/01/2013 01:57 EST | Updated 03/01/2013 02:01 EST

Tom Flanagan's comments about child porn have landed him in hot water with the university where he was a professor.

The University of Calgary announced Flanagan's retirement Thursday, with president Elizabeth Cannon condemning his remarks.

"Comments made by Tom Flanagan in Lethbridge yesterday absolutely do not represent the views of the University of Calgary. 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 defenseless children. Tom Flanagan has been on a research and scholarship leave from the University of Calgary since January of 2013," Cannon said in a statement.

According to the National Post, Flanagan has been on leave and will remain so until his retirement in June 2013. He submitted retirement papers in January but the university had not announced it.

Flanagan, a political science professor at the U of C since 1968, was caught on camera making controversial statements about child porn at the University of Lethbridge Wednesday evening.

"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 during a moderated discussion.

"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."

Story continues after slideshow

Alberta Responds To Flanagan's Comments

Alberta Premier Alison Redford also condemned the statements made by the former Stephen Harper advisor.

"It turned my stomach," The Calgary Herald reports Redford as saying.

"I am absolutely disgusted by it. I think it's a perfect example of people that take ideological arguments too far."

Flanagan and Harper worked together from the mid 1990s to 2004, with Flanagan eventually running the PM's successful campaigns for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance in 2002 and the Conservative Party of Canada in 2004. He was also the senior communications advisor for the Conservatives's successful 2005-2006 campaign.

The Calgary Sun spoke with several students on the U of C campus Thursday, their opinions divided on what action the university should take.

"That's unfortunate that he has that view, but it's his view and it doesn't represent the University of Calgary. He just happens to work here," one student told the Sun.

"Say something like that on Facebook or at school, or something in class like that, and you would get suspended. Just because he works here doesn't mean he shouldn't get suspended," another echoed.

A former student of Flanagan's stood up for the prof, however.

"I guess his lectures are a little more censored, he doesn't really touch on that kind of thing. As long as he's a good professor, I guess, might as well keep him on."

Flanagan apologized for his remarks Thursday, but not before he was dropped by a number of other groups and political organizations.

The Wildrose Party - Alberta's official opposition - quickly objected to their 2012 election campaign manager's comments, saying there would be no formal or informal relationship with Flanagan in the future.

He was also dropped as a speaker from the Manning Centre's MNC2013 conference in Ottawa next week, and the CBC fired him as a political commentator.

"I absolutely condemn the sexual abuse of children, including the use of children to produce pornography. These are crimes and should be punished under the law," Flanagan said in his apology.

"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."