By Eric Renner Brown
October 16, 2014 at 05:28 PM EDT
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Author John Grisham has apologized after making controversial comments about child pornography to The Telegraph.

In an interview published Wednesday, Grisham claimed the U.S. judicial system had “gone crazy” over the last 30 years, citing what he saw as the unfair imprisonment of white-collar criminals, minor drug offenders, and viewers of child pornography. It was that last part that caused problems—especially after Grisham explained his logic.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age,” Grisham said. “Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child. 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.”

Grisham attributed his stance on child porn charges to something that happened to an old law school friend of his; Grisham said his friend struggled with alcoholism, foolishly poked around on a site advertising 16-year-old prostitutes, and served three years in prison as a consequence.

“He shouldn’t ‘a done it,” Grisham said. “It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.”

Grisham issued an apology and clarification through his publisher, Doubleday, on Thursday:

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.