University of Calgary professor Tom Flanagan has had a tough week after being widely condemned for comments he made about child pornography on Feb. 27.
During a speech at the University of Lethbridge, an audience member asked Flanagan about comments he made in 2009 describing child pornography as “just pictures.” Flanagan defended his original statement, saying, “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.” He then said viewing child pornography does “not harm another person.”
A video of his comments was posted on YouTube and has since garnered international attention.
After the video of Flanagan’s comments went viral, the controversial professor quickly began losing political allies.
Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith immediately distanced her party from Flanagan.
“We don’t believe there’s any nuance in the issue of child exploitation. We absolutely have to address it as one of the most serious crimes,” said Smith in a public release.
Flanagan worked as the Wildrose Party’s campaign manager during the 2012 provincial election and was a long-time mentor of Smith.
The Prime Minster’s Office communications director Andrew MacDougall also condemned Flanagan, calling his comments “repugnant, ignorant and appalling” in a tweet.
Flanagan was a long-time political ally of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, managing his leadership campaigns during 2002 and 2004 and working as a communications advisor for the Conservative Party of Canada during its 2006 federal election campaign.
Flanagan also lost his position as a panelist on CBC’s Power and Politics following his controversial remarks.
Members of the U of C had split opinions on the issue.
U of C president Elizabeth Cannon condemned the comments in a press release on the U of C’s website.
“Comments made by Tom Flanagan in Lethbridge yesterday absolutely do not represent the views of the University of Calgary,” said Cannon. “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.”
U of C political science professor Barry Cooper, however, came to Flanagan’s defence.
“That is a defensible position. It’s not one that is held by most people in this country but it is, nonetheless, a defensible position,” said Cooper, according to the Globe and Mail.
Flanagan has been on leave since Jan. 3 and will retire from the university at the end of June, following the completion of his leave.
Flanagan was unavailable for comment.