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From The Vault: Tom Flanagan, white supremacists, the Reform Party and NAMBLA

Remember when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff and CBC commentator Tom Flanagan was vilified after a YouTube clip of his comments about child pornography went viral (well, by Canadian standards). 

A victim of the reactionary “gotcha” culture that Twitter emboldens, the next day Flanagan was dropped as an advisor to his protege Danielle Smith’s Wild Rose Party and was soon axed from his gig at the Mother Corp.

As someone who watched his fair share of the Daily Show in university, the thing that struck me in that YouTube clip was Flanagan’s mention of NAMBLA – The North American Man Boy Love Association. Dozens of articles had gone over his brief comments on child pornography, but none had delved into this reference.

So I decided to phone him up at his U of C office. To my surprise he picked up and answered my queries about the reference.

Here is the “webfile” that I wrote at the time (March 7, 2013), but just couldn’t square putting up online. It sounded too ridiculous, too “tabby” for a mainstream paper to run. Well, that’s the beauty of this here blog, without further ado (or a proper headline for self-spiked article): 

Former high-level conservative political strategist Tom Flanagan says he ended up on the North American Man Boy Love Association mailing list around the same time he was rooting out neo-Nazis from the Reform Party in the mid-90s.

Flanagan has drawn widespread criticism for his comments on child pornography made last week, but until now has not explained his admission in that same speech that he was on the mailing list of the pedophile advocacy group “for a couple of years.”

“It starts with working for the Reform Party and being asked to clean out the racists that may have infiltrated the party – there were not many but there were a few,” he said over the phone from his University of Calgary office. “I subscribed to (defunct neo-Nazi group) Heritage Front’s magazine because I was charged by the Reform Party with tracking them.

“But then they went out of business  and then… after a period of time, I started getting all this other stuff – none of which I ever asked for.

Flanagan said it was “mostly neo-Nazi but it included this man-boy love thing.”

“This was back in the mid-90s, who knew what the rules were then?” he said. “I didn’t subscribe.

“They put me on the list. I threw the stuff away. It eventually stopped.”

San Francisco-based NAMBLA, which advocates for the abolishment of age of consent laws criminalizing adult sexual involvement with minors, published a satirical piece making light of Flanagan’s situation this week. But the organization did not clarify if and how Flanagan was ever signed up for their newsletters.

Last week Flanagan said at the forum in Lethbridge, Alta., that he questioned whether people viewing child pornography should be jailed for their “taste in pictures.”

Flanagan made similar remarks three years earlier to the University of Manitoba’s student newspaper.

He said this week in National Post guest newspaper column that the question that prompted his remarks last week came out of left field and had nothing to do with the forum where he was speaking.

Flanagan was a one-time strategist for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and for Alberta’s Wildrose party, and was a political pundit on CBC TV – all have since denounced him.

He is still listed as a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute conservative think tank.

Neither Flanagan nor Fraser Institute would comment on his position there.

“I will say I’m getting tremendous support from individuals, and I have made hundreds of new friends, from gay and lesbian activists  to social conservatives and born-again Christians and everything in between,”Flanagan said. “But it’s all individuals, so I have no comments on organizations.”

With files from The Canadian Press

POST SCRIPT: Just checked and it looks like The Fraser Institute weathered the media firestorm (of one reporter) and kept Flanagan on as a senior fellow. Good on it for sticking to its guns.

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