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John Grisham apologizes after troubling statements about child porn

John Grisham apologizes after troubling statements about child porn
Bestselling author John Grisham has made some controversial statements about child porn. (Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

John Grisham is known for writing bestselling legal thrillers like "The Firm," "The Client" and "The Pelican Brief." Promoting his upcoming novel "Gray Mountain," he told England's the Daily Telegraph that America's prison system is out of control.

And in the process, he said some pretty creepy things about people viewing child porn. Later Thursday morning, he apologized via a statement on his Facebook page.

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Initially, Grisham told the Daily Telegraph, "We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child." He continued, "But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."

The description of "white men in prison who've never harmed anybody" is problematic on its own -- particularly in the wake of Ferguson, Mo., where 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man, was shot and killed by police. Grisham's racially-loaded statement raises questions of what constitutes harmlessness, and how race is a factor.

Grisham's explanation that reaching child porn online must be a mistake, and that being drunk somehow constitutes an excuse, seems equally troubling.

Grisham went on to explain what happened to an old classmate:

"His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labeled '16-year-old wannabe hookers or something like that.' And it said '16-year-old girls.' So he went there. Downloaded some stuff -- it was 16-year-old girls who looked 30."

He continued, "He shouldn't have done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys. He didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: 'FBI!' and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people -- sex offenders -- and he went to prison for three years."

Grisham went on, "There's so many of them now. There's so many 'sex offenders' -- that's what they're called -- that they put them in the same prison. Like they're a bunch of perverts, or something; thousands of 'em. We've gone nuts with this incarceration."

The Daily Telegraph writes, "Asked about the argument that viewing child pornography fueled the industry of abuse needed to create the pictures, Mr. Grisham said that current sentencing policies failed to draw a distinction between real-world abusers and those who downloaded content, accidentally or otherwise."

Grisham responded, "I have no sympathy for real paedophiles," he said, "God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that's what they're getting."

In an apology posted on his Facebook page, Grisham writes, "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 statement continues, "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."

It concludes, "I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all."

Book news and more; I'm @paperhaus on Twitter

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