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John Grisham 'Sorry' For Criticizing Child Porn Sentences

Author John Grisham has apologized for comments he made about child pornography in a recent interview. What was behind his argument?
Posted at 4:09 PM, Oct 16, 2014

Best-selling author John Grisham has apologized for controversial remarks about child pornography made during an interview with The Telegraph.

JOHN GRISHAM VIA THE TELEGRAPH: "But they got online one night, started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn. ... They deserve some type of punishment, or whatever, but 10 years in prison?"

The author went on to say he has no sympathy for "actual pedophiles" ​but thinks judges have "gone crazy" with sentences. He lamented the prison sentence a lawyer friend of his received after getting caught in a sting operation 10 years ago.

The original interview was actually done to promote his latest book, "Gray Mountain." Grisham's remarks on child porn were part of a larger argument about the U.S. prison system as a whole.

But the media and social media alike zeroed in on his child porn comments. Users on Twitter were quick to condemn the author's interview.

Jezebel points out that to access child porn, one needs to do much more than stumble on a download link, adding, "In reality, it seems less like Grisham's friend is not guilty and more like Grisham has a problem reconciling the fact that someone he likes would be sexually attracted to children."

Speaking to the BBC, a representative of the U.K.-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children warned Grisham's comments were a dangerous message, saying even looking at images online fuels child abuse.

Grisham later apologized for his comment, writing "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."

Although Grisham's remarks drew backlash, Time notes the author touched on a contentious issue concerning the U.S. criminal system — that punishing offenders isn't case-specific enough.

Add the fact that Families Against Mandatory Minimums says the length of federal child porn sentences has increased by a whopping 500 percent in the past 15 years and you have a very real debate on whether the U.S. needs new rules.

Still, a writer at The Telegraph says when it comes to prosecuting offenders, somebody's got to do time: 

"What Grisham fails to grasp is that law enforcement agencies need these 'stupid' guys in jail because they end up as news stories and word gets around. ... Law enforcers have to be seen to be sending out a strong deterrent message."

This video includes an image from Getty Images.