Conrad Black On Tom Flanagan: Child Porn Comments Defended by Media Mogul

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Conrad Black defended Tom Flanagan's child porn comments at a Calgary luncheon on Friday. (CP/BBC) | CP/BBC

CALGARY - Former media baron Conrad Black says comments by a one-time high-level political strategist on child pornography were reasonable and innocuous.

Last February, Tom Flanagan was highly criticized for suggesting that people who view photos of child pornography shouldn't necessarily be jailed.

He made the controversial remark at the University of Lethbridge during a lecture that was posted on YouTube. It prompted every group Flanagan was publicly associated with to sever any real or perceived ties with him.

Black told a Calgary luncheon Friday that Flanagan, who was in the audience, did nothing wrong.

"He certainly would be the last person in this country to be soft on pedophilia or something like that," Black said.

"He made a perfectly reasonable point and my wife (Barbara Amiel) and I both wrote in defence of him in various publications."

Black said both he and Amiel received what he called "severely irrational" responses from some readers.

"They were worrisome in that they were almost psychotic in their allegations."

Flanagan is a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and at one time was consulted by one-time Reform party leader Preston Manning. Flanagan headed up the federal Conservative campaign in 2004 and ran the Alberta Wildrose party's election campaign a year ago when it achieved Opposition status.

He was almost immediately dropped as a CBC political panellist, dismissed by the University of Calgary, and both Harper and the Wildrose denounced his remarks, despite Flanagan's public apology.

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He said his 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."

Black said Flanagan was only exercising free speech.

"We all have the right to get things off our chest. In Tom's case, to actually make a completely innocuous, accurate statement ... there was no right whatsoever to take (that) as an incitement to or expression of toleration of sociopathic activity."

Black was convicted in the United States of fraud and obstruction of justice while he was head of media giant Hollinger International. He served 37 months of a 42-month sentence in a Florida prison and returned to Canada a year ago under a special temporary permit given that he is no longer a citizen.

He told the audience he was unfairly maligned by the U.S. justice system.

"The U.S. has five per cent of the world's population, 25 per cent of its incarcerated people and 50 per cent of its lawyers," Black said.

Black said because of his treatment he will go through the rest of his life "as a felon" in the United States.