EDMONTON -- Alberta Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says it's "idiotic" for critics to suggest controversial child pornography statements by former key adviser Tom Flanagan can be linked to her party.

"Conservative (leaning) parties have always been accused of ridiculous things by their critics," Smith said in an interview Friday. "I think those kinds of comments are idiotic, frankly.

"We don't believe there's any nuance in the issue of child exploitation. We absolutely have to address it as one of the most serious crimes."

Smith pointed out that three years ago her party put forward a private member's bill compelling the mandatory reporting of child pornography. The bill was passed by the legislature.

"We have shown leadership on this issue."

Flanagan, a University of Calgary political science professor who is to retire this summer, is a nationally recognized political analyst and campaigner on the right side of the political spectrum.

He was roundly condemned Thursday after telling a crowd the day before at the University of Lethbridge that he questioned whether people viewing child pornography should be jailed.

"I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures," Flanagan tells the crowd in cellphone footage later posted to the Internet. "It is a real issue of personal liberty, to what extent we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person."

Flanagan apologized in a statement attributed to him and posted on the CBC website. He said his words "were badly chosen" and in the resulting uproar he was not able to make clear his abhorrence of child exploitation.

Still, Smith cut all party ties with Flanagan and the CBC announced he would no longer be a commentator on its "Power and Politics" show.

Smith said Friday she wasn't aware of a 2009 article in the University of Manitoba student newspaper that quoted Flanagan as asking rhetorically during a lecture: "What's wrong with child pornography -- in the sense that it's just pictures?"

Smith said no one picked up on it at the time. She pointed out that Flanagan has been a regular on the CBC since then and was also appointed to a panel at the Alberta government's recent economic summit in Calgary.

"I don't think anyone knew," Smith said. "I certainly didn't know."

Flanagan is a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, advised Reform party leader Preston Manning, headed up the federal Conservative campaign in 2004 and ran the Wildrose election campaign a year ago.

Premier Alison Redford condemned Flanagan's comments, but did not criticize the Wildrose. However, Susan Elliott, the Alberta PC party's campaign manager, took to Twitter to label Flanagan a symptom of a core problem with the rival party.

"Flanagan remarks reinforce suspicion that Wildrose values differ from mainstream Alberta values. Election '12 deja vu," Elliott tweeted.

The deja vu reference was in regards to comments from Wildrose candidates late in the election campaign.

One Edmonton candidate was found to have written a blog posting urging gays to repent or face an eternity burning in hell. A Calgary candidate told a radio show that as a white man he was in the best position to build consensus among all races.

Smith rebuffed demands that she cut the two candidates loose before polling day. She said she respected the right to free speech.

Neither of the two was victorious.