Comments made by conservative election strategist Tom Flanagan about child pornography on Wednesday night have sparked outrage and condemnation of the University of Calgary professor. Speaking at an event hosted by the reputable Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs in Lethbridge, Dr. Flanagan was recorded telling the audience that viewing child pornography shouldn’t be a crime and that people should not be jailed for their taste in pictures. He described child pornography as a victimless crime (see the video below).
It was shocking to hear these comments come straight out of the mouth of the ‘Karl Rove‘ of Canadian politics. As a member of the right-wing ‘Calgary School,’ Dr. Flanagan helped build Canada’s modern Conservative political machine. While known for his more controversial statements about firewalls, Louis Riel, and aboriginal rights, he was the master architect of the successful tightly-scripted and wedge-issue-centric political campaigns that brought Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s Conservatives to power in Ottawa.
Shortly after Dr. Flanagan’s comments were made public, he was dropped as a CBC commentator and swiftly denounced by his employer, the University of Calgary. U of C President Elizabeth Cannon said in a statement that “all aspects of this horrific crime involve the exploitation of children.” President Cannon announced that Dr. Flanagan had submitted his letter of retirement on January 3, 2013.
Dr. Flanagan was also denounced by the Prime Minister Director of Communications Andrew MacDougall. The professor was a well-known confident, advisor, and sometime critic to Prime Minister Harper.
Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith moved quickly to condemn Dr. Flanagan’s comments in a statement to the media. A teacher and mentor to Ms. Smith, Dr. Flanagan served as campaign manager during the 2012 provincial election. “To be clear, Dr. Flanagan does not speak for me or the Wildrose caucus and he will have no role – formal or informal – with our organization going forward,” Smith said in her statment.
As well as condemning Dr. Flanagan, the Wildrose Party removed the weblink to the party’s “Tom Flanagan award for Outstanding Campaign Manager.”
Following the avalanche of condemnation, Dr. Flanagan released a statement:
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. Last night, in an academic setting, I raised a theoretical question about how far criminalization should extend toward the consumption of pornography.
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.