From Tracie: John Grisham Accidentally Let Us Know Exactly What He Thinks About Child Pornography And Those Who Download It

Friday, October 17, 2014

John Grisham Accidentally Let Us Know Exactly What He Thinks About Child Pornography And Those Who Download It

John Grisham had something to say about pedophiles and child pornography earlier this week in an interview with The 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 said in an exclusive interview to promote his latest novel Gray Mountain.
"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."
Oh my. These poor sixty-year-old white men who pushed the wrong buttons. What a tragedy. How could we possibly convict them of a crime?

This narrative of "accidentally" ending up viewing child pornography is an interesting one. Is it possible to click, click, click your way to accidentally ending up on a site with pornographic pictures of children? Maybe. But as Grisham continued talking, he offered up the story of "a good buddy from law school" that paints a very different picture.
"His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee 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 shouldn't ’a 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." 
"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," 
"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,"
Let's take this story step by step.

This law school buddy had a drinking problem. He was out of control.

Then he went to a website labelled "sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that." Does this sound accidental to you? What about the next sentence, "And it said 16-year-old girls. So he went there."
It said 16-year-old girls. So he went there.
That is not the description of an accident. This is the description of a man who went to a website looking for underage girls. And then he found them.

But what did he do next? Did he click away as fast as he could, and wash his eyes out with soap? Did he call a friend, and say I need to get my drinking under control? Did he immediately leave that site and search for "fully grown naked women in their 20's"? No. He did something else entirely.

He downloaded some stuff.
"So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30."
One might (and I still believe this is a very far stretch), might end up on a site with child porn accidentally. But one does not download pictures of sixteen year old girls, clearly labeled as sixteen year old girls, accidentally. It just does not happen. You have to click more than one button to do it. You have to choose which file will store these pictures. There are several small steps on the path of downloading a pornographic picture of a sixteen year old girl, and this law school buddy took each one of them. So when the FBI showed up at his door, and he got a three year prison sentence, he should not have been surprised.

Now that we have set aside any thoughts of this being an accident, let's talk further about what Grisham was actually saying about child pornography in these statements.


What Did John Grisham REALLY Say About Child Pornography?

If John Grisham was trying to prove his law school buddy was unjustly persecuted, why did he say so distinctly the age of the children? I believe it was because of this line, "It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that'."

Sixteen year old wannabee hookers. They wanted it, these sixteen year old girls. They wanted to be hookers. They wanted to display their naked bodies online so men could masturbate and fantasize about sex with an underage girl. They wanted his law school buddy to look at them. They wanted it. Just like every victim of rape who is questioned about how she was dressed, or if she had led the guy on, or a myriad of other questions designed to put the blame squarely on her shoulders, John Grisham pointed to these girls and said, they wanted it.

Grisham goes on to make a clarifying remark about the looks of these girls. "It was 16 year old girls who looked 30."

16 year old girls who looked 30. What am I supposed to infer from this? Maybe the girls were actually 30? His law school buddy was able to tell the age of the girls just by looking at them, and that is why he downloaded those pictures - pictured clearly labeled "16-year-old girls"? Or am I supposed to take away the idea that these girls confused his friend with their 30-year old looks? If only they had looked like proper 16-year olds, he wouldn't have looked at them or downloaded their pictures? And what was it about these girls that made them look 30? It doesn't matter how old the girls looked. What matters is the fact his law school buddy viewed and downloaded pictures of sixteen-year-old girls. As a lawyer, Grisham should be aware that sixteen-year-olds are minors.

Then, Grisham makes a distinction between these girls and other victims with, "He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys."

It wasn't 10-year-old boys. It isn't just an age distinction he is making, some lame plea to recognize the difference between a 10-year-old body and a 16-year-old body as if having a developed body somehow changes the rights and protections of being a child. No. He makes a distinction between boys and girls. It is a subtle rehashing of the age-old misogynistic narrative that boys are more valuable than girls. It wasn't as if he victimized a boy; that would be a real crime. Girls are there for our pleasure, especially girls whose bodies have developed like a 30-year-old, and who want to be hookers. It isn't as much of a crime when you victimize a girl. This is the real message he is sending with these words.

Grisham goes on to say that his law school buddy didn't touch anything. Revisiting his early words that they,"never harmed anybody" and "would never touch a child." Maybe it is true some of these men have never touched a child inappropriately. But it doesn't change the fact that viewing and downloading pornographic pictures of children is a crime and it is a victimization. By doing this, they have harmed someone.

If you have never thought about what that looks like for the girls (and boys) on the other end of those pictures, or if you think pictures are not really that big of a deal, I would encourage you to read The Price Of A Stolen Childhood, and note this quote from Judge Emilio Garza,
“It seems to me that we’re in this brave new world, where not only was there an actual rape, but I’m going to suggest to you there is a continuing digitized rape,” the judge said. “Possession of the digitized recording of the rape contributes to the system, contributes to the economic benefit of those who produced this thing.
These pictures do matter. In the original Telegraph article, the author notes that there is debate in America over sentencing for sex offenders and those who view and download child pornography, and points out there there have been instances of people who viewed child pornography being sentenced more heavily than people who committed physical acts against children. I won't deny that this does feel wrong. It does not mean we need to lessen the sentences of those who viewed child pornography, but rather, that we should heighten the sentences of those who committed physical acts against children.

Grisham wants us to believe that his friend is neither a pervert nor a pedophile, but his actions prove him to be exactly that. His friend wasn't viewing and downloading sexually explicit pictures of children because they grossed him out.

John Grisham's Apology

In a statement on his personal website the next day, Grisham said,
"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. 
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."
I understand that he regrets having made these statements. But his apology rings hollow for me. It does not convince me that he does not believe the things he said, only that he is sorry to have said them in a public forum. And saying he thinks people who view child pornography "should be punished to the fullest extent of the law" does not mean he agrees with the law as it is written now, only that he believes the law should be enforced. That is a slippery lawyer apology right there.

An Important Update.

After the original statements from Grisham were made public, Salon did some further digging into this case of John Grisham's law school buddy. What they found was interesting, and I believe it enforces my interpretation of Grisham's story. Salon and The Telegraph both point to the case of Michael B. Holleman who attended the law school of the University of Mississippi and, like Grisham, earned his degree in 1981. In the 90's, Holleman was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 18 months for "sending and receiving" child pornography.

This is hardly the three years Grisham would have had us believe his law school buddy was in prison.

The story is not quite as "accidental" as Grisham tried to paint it, either. The Telegraph obtained unseen newspaper reports from Holleman's 1997 trial from the Sun Herald newspaper. In these papers we are told,
"An undercover agent who asked for some of Holleman's pictures over the Internet earlier this year received 13 images, all of children under 18, some under 12. They depicted children during sexually explicit conduct, including intercourse," said the report from November 1997, quoting a US justice department lawyer, Kathy McLure.
It seems that his 18 months sentence would have been higher, with additional charges of transmitting pornographic images to Maine added on, if he had not pled guilty.

Grisham's friend clearly did not just stumble upon child pornography. He was viewing it. He was downloading it. He was sending it to other people. This was no accident.

And as to that, "it wasn't 10-year-old boys" statement Grisham made, it was clearly under-12-year-old children of some type. So how does that (invalid) qualifier help now? Did these children under the age of 12 look 30? Did they "want it"? Were they boys? It doesn't matter. We are still talking about the same crime. Holleman was engaged in viewing, downloading, and disseminating child pornography. Period.

Are you wondering what happened to John Girsham's old law school buddy Michael B. Holleman? He is now working as a personal injury lawyer in Gulfport, Mississippi. His law license was reinstated in 2002. During that hearing, Holleman's petition for reinstatement was supported by approximately 60 letters of recommendation, one of which was penned by John Grisham.

John Grisham, who wrote a letter asking the Supreme Court of Mississippi to reinstate his buddy's law license, must have known the real facts of this case, even as he presented them very differently to The Telegraph to make his point that 60-year-old white men are being unjustly imprisoned. You don't wade into something this serious without looking into what actually happened.

So, yeah. Grisham doesn't show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes - he only tries to diminish the extent of their crimes when speaking about them publicly and writes letters to help them regain their law license.

Thanks for that clarification, John.

I will be sure to remember it the next time I'm deciding which book to purchase at the bookstore.


  1. I am standing here, giving you a resounding ovation. Thank you for this. I can't say enough about how it calls out the truth of the matter. I wish the whole world would read this, Tracie!

  2. wow. just, wow.

  3. Tracie, I am with you on this and John Grisham's apology definitely rings more then a bit hollow to me and just sad that he would think that this is anything, but wrong and tried to justify/clarify it the way he did or that he apologized, because he said it in a public forum and pretty much was covering his own tail by what he said. Thank you for shedding lint on this and sharing. And will not be reading nor buying any of books in the future either.

  4. Excellent Tracie! Thank you for taking the time to dissect, and for stating the truth.

  5. A crappy writer and a crappy person. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Absolutely!! I also think John Grisham revealed his own personal tastes in porn, too.

  7. I had heard some about this and was disgusted. But after reading all of this... wow. WTH is wrong with him? And just like that, I don't ever need to buy one of his books again.

  8. Thank you Tracie, I am shaking my head, at the comments he stated. How can he sit there a justify any of this..Just infuriates me so much.

  9. Such a disturbing situation. It's hard to believe that he justifies this in any respect. Yes, you don't just "accidentally" download anything like that. Glad you're calling attention to this topic. I used to read his books years ago but was never a big fan. Visiting from SITS Sharefest.

  10. Honestly, how disgusting. I was watching The View when Rosie O let him have it.....I can't believe he would in any way think those thoughts were accurate, let alone just enough to be released onto the general public. His publishers must be absolutely furious. What a moron.

  11. Excellent breakdown and analysis. I had no idea he'd said so many damning and disturbing things. I'm speechless.

  12. It's interesting because I've read that his Christian faith guides him, even in his writing. Perhaps that was his way of showing that white male lawyers need grace too? But I won't make any comment further than that because I don't want to speculate or go on a witch hunt. I assume that - with time - he'll understand how wrong his words were. You wrote a very lucid post, my friend.

  13. I had no idea any of this took place. I don't read, so I it's not like I would be purchasing his books anyways, but his apology definitely sounds fake and forced to me.

  14. I'm blown away that he made those statements to begin with. Everything you outlined and emphasized in his comments says it all. His apology is simply a PR move. Clearly what he said initially is how he feels. Ugh.

  15. I like John Grisham's past novels - but I do disagree with him on this matter. If you accidentally get to a child porn site then you intentionally get yourself out of the child porn site! NO downloading - out FAST! Otherwise it is no accident! Actions taken while intoxicated are not excused. Drunk or not - staying on a child porn site is illegal!

  16. I've never been a fan of John Grisham and this just solidifies it. There is NO excuse. Ever.

  17. I haven't read any of his books, and I no intentions to start now. I can't believe his statements. So wrong on so many levels.

  18. Ooh gosh.. talk about inserting foot in mouth. He won't recover well from this. Idiot!

  19. I think that Rosie O'Donnell is correct and someone should be taking a look at what is floating around on his computer. It doesn't matter the age or sex of the person, if the site says that they are underage, whether they are or not, you shouldn't even bother looking because you're setting yourself up for trouble. I have never liked John Grisham's novels but now I definitely won't read them.

  20. Actions always speak louder than words. Especially wishy washy words, even from famous folks

  21. Wow I had no idea any of this happened. Totally crazy, and I don't think his apology is sincere in any capacity.

  22. I was shocked when I heard that he said this. His apology can't cover up what he said first!

  23. This is such an interesting post. It's nauseating how he tries so hard to make what his friend did okay.

  24. Oh yikes. This is terrible. He is one of my favorite authors. I do have a friend that was almost labeled a "sex offender" and I know what that label can do to ruin an entire life. That punishment should NOT be doled out lightly. But yeah....even though he didn't "touch" anyone.....he could have later.....yuck the entire thing is disgusting

  25. It is so sad that these are his views. he has obviously never stopped to think about the children on the other end. I watch a lot of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and it is amazing the things that I see, even though fiction, it is the reality of the world

  26. I don't think clicking and downloading can be an accident. It's a shame that some people think that way.

  27. I know some grown men who think 16 or 17 is not a child. It seems that's what's going on here. I shudder and get really unsettled with such things. My daughter is 15, she is definitely a child.

  28. Wow, I can't believe he said all those things, talk about word vomit! I don't think the apology takes away from what he said at all. This is a great post. I loved reading your opinion and how you dissected the scenario.

  29. this situation is so weird. none of it makes sense why he would even say it.

  30. This seems like a case of my friend is more important than some nobody so he shouldn't be punished even though he was "accidentally" committing a horrendous crime. Humans have a way of rationalizing things to fit our point of view when someone we care about does something wrong. That in no way makes what the friend did right it just makes him an idiot for trying to defend a predator.

  31. In all honesty I have never picked up and read one of his books. I have enjoyed the films that have been made from his books though. I'm blown away and that he made those statements.

  32. Yikes! I hadn't heard about this before. He should know better being in the public eye what to say and not say!

  33. Sounds like a pedofile to me! Seriously delusional and looking for permission to be a perv with no consequences.

  34. This is the first time I am hearing about this. I am not a Grishman fan so I don't stay in the loop when it comes to his news.

  35. Wow....I had heard bits and pieces of this story but not the entire thing. I find it pretty sad that he would defend those who view child pornography. It's easy enough to tell if you "accidentally" landed on a site but actually googling something that specific is a whole different thing.

  36. There isn't really much of a public apology that could take away what he said. That's horrible....

  37. I had not heard about John Grisham saying this. It definitely is very interesting.

  38. This really is disturbing. It makes you wonder about people doesn't it?

  39. I can't believe all he said. Jeez it sounds like he needs to rethink his stance. Sad. My dh likes his books I'm not going to be buying anymore.

  40. Thank you for the post. I agree with all your points. It reminds me of men who look at the mag, Barely Legal and proclaim that they really are not underage, but the implication is that they are. So , looking at implied images, somehow gives them licenses to be perverts.