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John Grisham apologizes for remarks on child porn, sex offenders

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John Grisham (Courtesy Bob Krasner)

(CNN) — John Grisham is taking back statements he made about child pornography and sex offenders.

In a recent interview with the UK’s Telegraph, the lawyer and prolific author of books and Hollywood adaptations such as “The Firm,” “The Pelican Brief” and “A Time to Kill” sparked outrage when he expressed his belief that some people who view child pornography online are receiving punishments that don’t match the scale of the crime.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age, 60-year-old white men, in prison, who’ve never harmed anybody (and) would never touch a child,” Grisham said during a conversation about high U.S. prison rates. “But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons and went too far and got into child porn. … They deserve some type of punishment, but 10 years in prison?

“There’s so many of them now, sex offenders … that they put them in the same prison, like they’re a bunch of perverts or something.”

He then used an old law school friend as an example:

“I have no sympathy for a real pedophile. But so many of these guys don’t deserve harsh prison sentences. A friend of mine, this was 10 years ago, was drinking, and his drinking was out of control. And he went to a website, and it was labeled, 16-year-old wannabe hookers or something, some stupid website. And it said 16-year-old girls. So he went there and downloaded some stuff.

“It was 16-year-old girls that look 30. … He shouldn’t have done it. It was stupid. But it wasn’t 10-year-old boys, and he didn’t touch anything.”

To Grisham’s recollection, the website his friend visited was actually a sting operation to capture sex offenders. He said his friend was then sent to prison for three years.

Those comments and the nature in which Grisham discussed the very serious issue of child pornography incited a flood of hurt, disappointed and angry reactions from fans.

“The day that you came out in an interview and said that watchers of child porn get too stiff of a penalty for it (you said 10 years was too much) makes you someone that I cannot support nor no longer want to read,” a reader named Kendra Benefield Lausman shared on Grisham’s Facebook page; another posted that she’s taken her entire Grisham library to her “burn barrel” with the intent to set the books on fire.

“How do you think child porn is made?” a poster named John Kelly asked on Grisham’s page. “Someone is still getting hurt you imbecile. I’m sad to say that I will never purchase, nor consume, one of your books ever again. I am disgusted.”

After the uproar began, Grisham issued an apology.

“Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography — online or otherwise — should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” the author said in a statement. “My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all.”

That may not be enough for some of his former followers.

“You clearly said in the interview that people (like your drunk friend) who look at child porn don’t deserve severe punishment,” Facebook user Raylene Jolly Wheeler posted in response to Grisham. “Not sure how you can backtrack that statement.”

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2 comments

  • JACQUE

    Everyone who harms a child in anyway needs to be punished no matter how low or high the harm is and he is right old 60 year old white men are the #1 pervs. No matter the race color or age they still need to be punished. This is serious stuff.. People like this should not be able to be out near our children. If they get nasty thoughts with their excuse of being drunk or ” I have never done this before ” they are fuill of it. Once it is in their head it’s not going to go away.There is no treatment for Pervs, I don’t care what any clinical study says. They will NEVER get it out their system. It will just get worse until they end up hurting someone.

  • jennifer

    Grisham is a wimp for backing down from his original comments. His original comments are SPOT ON accurate – and that is a fact.