*UPDATE* Former Harper strategist: Looking at child porn shouldn't be a crime
Tom Flanagan says he's sorry.
In a statement attributed to Flanagan and posted on the CBC website, the frequent panellist on the network says he absolutely condemns child sex abuse and that he chose his words poorly while discussing the matter in an academic setting.
The apology comes after the former Stephen Harper strategist & campaign manager came under fire for suggesting that looking at child pornography shouldn't be a crime.
Flanagan, made the comments at a community lecture in southern Alberta Wednesday night, a video of which was posted to YouTube.
In it, 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 these pictures, but he once was 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 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.''
The PMO has denounced Flanagan's comments as “repugnant, ignorant and appalling”.
The CBC says Flanagan's words "crossed the line and impacted his credibility". They've dropped him as a commentator on Power & Politics.
The University of Calgary where Flanagan had been a professor says his comments "absolutely do not represent" the views of the school. Of child pornography, University President Elizabeth Cannon writes "Viewing pictures serves to create more demand for these terrible images, which leads to further exploitation of defenseless children." Flanagan has been on a research & scholarship leave from the university since January.
Alberta Wildrose leader Danielle Smith has also spoken out again her former campaign manager's words, saying 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.
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."
(With files from the Canadian Press)