Pete Townshend of The Who recently spoke with The Independent about the arduous process of repairing his reputation following the publication of the essay “A Different Bomb” on his website. He discussed finding upsetting photographs of child abuse online and trying to report it in the essay. The rock star then confessed to using his credit card on a website that contained photographs of child abuse, leading to his detention in 2003 and five years on a sex offenders list. He mentioned the incident and said: Although I made a mistake, I believe I made the right decision. Keir Starmer, who oversaw public prosecutions at the time, pressed me to choose between appearing in court to prove my case or taking a warning. My dread of going to court was real.
I declined because I feared being used as a poster guy. Townshend continued, outlining his purpose: “I heeded the warning. Legally speaking, I could be said to have downloaded child pornography, which is what I was accused of doing but never did. In truth, I was working on my campaign and doing research to position myself to be effective in identifying the source of the problem. The musician acknowledged that the incident continues to tarnish his public image. When I conduct interviews, this is frequently brought up in the comments: ‘This person should be in prison.’ It often comes up. Even though it hurts, it is a necessary part of my everyday existence because I and my wife both know the truth. She kept a close eye on me. People are invited to read where I was before my arrest by reading my essay “A Different Bomb,” which is available online.
A member of The Who spoke with the Times in 2012 to explain his desire to look into child pornography and his response to the remarks, saying: “I had a creepy encounter when I was young, so picture if I had been a girl of nine or ten and my uncle had raped me every week. I thought I could comprehend and be of assistance. It was absurd what I did. Because there was no sense that “the truth will come out,” [I never spoke up]. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of reading internet comments where I’ve been accused of being a pedophile simply because I have a large nose. Townshend’s autobiography, “Who I Am,” which will be released in October 2012, addressed his detention and the ensuing media flurry. In a 2012 interview with John Wilson of Radio 4, he urged people to read his book for a more thorough explanation of the incident and his point of view.