Pete Townshend denies he's a pedophile. In the wake of a nationwide kid-porn probe, the Who guitarist admits to visiting online porn sites but says he was only doing research

By Gary Susman
Updated January 13, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Pete Townsend: Adam Houghton/Capital Pictures/ImageDirect

Pete Townshend says he’s viewed child pornography online but says he did so only for research purposes. The Who guitarist’s admission came in the wake of reports in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper on Friday that a U.K.-wide kiddie-porn probe had targeted a well-known rock star. ”I am not making any excuses,” Townshend told the British paper The Sun on Sunday. ”I am angry about child porn on the Internet, and deeply wounded at the inference that I might be a pedophile.”

Townshend cited his longtime activism on behalf of abused children and noted the rage he felt when he came across a child-porn site six years ago while surfing the Web with his 16-year-old son, Joseph. ”I have looked at child porn sites maybe three or four times in all, the front pages and previews,” he told the Sun. ”But I have only entered once using a credit card and I have never downloaded. With hindsight it was very foolish but I felt so angered about what was going on it blurred my judgment. I have never purchased any forms of child pornography or wished to own any. I saw the first awful photo by accident. It repelled me and shocked me to my very core.”

Townshend’s remarks followed a statement he issued on Saturday, saying he’d surfed the sites as research for a book, inspired in part by his own dim memories of being sexually abused as a child. ”I cannot remember clearly what happened,” he said in Saturday’s statement, ”but my creative work tends to throw up nasty shadows, particularly in ‘Tommy,”’ the Who’s 1969 rock opera about an autistic, abused child.

The guitarist even offered to let Scotland Yard examine his home computer, he said on Saturday. Reuters reports, however, that Scotland Yard declined to confirm whether it was even investigating the rocker, saying the organization would not discuss individual cases.