Tom Flanagan to retire from University of Calgary after child porn comments

In response to a question, Tom Flanagan told a room of students that he has some doubts about putting people that …The life of a political scientist can be a tricky one, fraught with ups and downs. Ebbs and flows. Take Tom Flanagan, a noted Conservative commentator, University of Calgary professor and former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Alberta’s Wildrose Party.

One day he is on top of the world, making television appearances in an oversized fur coat and the next he is a pariah, loathed by the public and abandoned by virtually every association he had cultivated over the course of his career.

And why? All for a little diatribe in which he defended the right to watch child pornography, based on the assertion that it causes no harm and no foul to anyone.

Those comments again, as captured on video from a University of Lethbridge lecture earlier this week:

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 … It is a real issue of personal liberty. To what extent do we put people in jail for doing something for which they do not harm another person?

The University of Calgary announced following the statement that Flanagan was set for retirement, and would remain on a research leave until he was no longer affiliated with the institution.

[ Related: Former Harper adviser apologizes for child porn comments ]

“In the university’s view, child pornography is not a victimless crime,” President Elizabeth Cannon stated. “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.”

Flanagan had apparently submitted his retirement papers in January, but no announcement had been made. Still, things aren’t great when the president of a university has to clarify that they do not approve of child pornography. Something is off, to say the least.

But the University of Calgary wasn’t the first to announce they would end their association with the controversial Flanagan, who has long had ties to Harper and captained the federal Conservative election campaign in 2004.

Harper’s communications director, Andrew MacDougall, quickly rebuked the statements and CBC News, where Flanagan frequently appeared as a commentator on the show Power & Politics, junked him from their lineup. Alberta’s Wildrose Party would also cut ties with its former strategist before Flanagan had issued an apology.

Flanagan had managed the Wildrose’s near-successful 2012 provincial election, which fell apart after two candidates made anti-gay and racist comments shortly before the vote.

[ Related: Tom Flanagan compared to Sasquatch for wearing bison coat ]

His apology, as posted by CBC’s Kady O’Malley:

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.

Flanagan has had a strange and controversial career to this point. His latest book suggests First Nations communities should embrace assimilation. At one point, he was investigated by police for recommending the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

At least now, after being brushed aside by his university, his former political parties and his commentating side gig, Flanagan will have a chance to think about the things he has said.

One wonders what he will do with all that spare time.