John Grisham apologizes for controversial comments about sex offenders

Bestselling author John Grisham apologized Thursday for comments he made about what he viewed as overly punitive sentences for those who view child pornography.

Jose Luis Magana/AP
Author John Grisham speaks during the opening of the premier of the stage adaptation of 'A Time To Kill' at Arena Stage theater in Washington.

Bestselling crime writer or not, it's best not to appear to defend sex offenders in a public interview with a widely read newspaper during the release of an anticipated book.

John Grisham learned that the hard way. The bestselling author apologized Thursday for comments he made about overly punitive sentences for those who view child pornography.

"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," he wrote in a statement on his Facebook page.

He continued: "My comments... 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."

His apology follows an interview with the UK's Daily Telegraph in which Grisham said judges have "gone crazy" meting out harsh sentences to those who don't deserve them, like white collar criminals, black teens on minor drug charges, and men who have viewed child porn online.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who have never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “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."

He went on to share the story of a law school friend who was jailed for three years for viewing child abuse images in Canada. He said his friend's drinking had been "out of control" at the time.

In the interview, he did add, "I have no sympathy for real pedophiles. 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."

Still, the pushback was immediate.

Gawker ran this headline: "John Grisham: Let’s give old white guys who look at porn a break”

"Grisham's explanation that reaching child porn online must be a mistake, and that being drunk somehow constitutes an excuse, seems equally troubling," writes LA Times' Jacket Copy writer Carolyn Kellogg.

Twitter lit up with tweets attacking Grisham.

The author – who left a career in the law and went on to author bestselling legal thrillers like "The Firm," "The Client," and "The Pelican Brief" – was speaking with the Telegraph about his latest novel, "Gray Mountain."

Unfortunately for him, that was lost in the hubbub over his surprising comments.

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