"There's nothing more political than sex. The Church has had its hand on our crotch for more than 2,000 years, and the government is moving in that direction. I think Americans lose sight of individual rights and what our Constitution means: an unrestricted right of free choice." -Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler
President Bill Clinton's hammer against many of the moral-spouting Republicans arrayed against him is a smut peddler, who unabashedly enjoys his trade. Lawrence Claxton Flynt, 56, simply called Larry Flynt, is America's flamboyant king of raunch and today has emerged as a terror for many philandering Republican politicians as the nation convulses under the no-holds-barred politics of slash and burn.
With typical panache, Flynt announced on January 11 that his investigation to expose hypocritical American politicos revealed that the passionate Clinton foe, Republican Bob Barr of Georgia, had an affair while married and paid for a former wife's abortion. Flynt said this showed the hypocrisy of those seeking to oust Clinton from office in an impeachment trial revolving around his affair with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.
Flynt doesn't obfuscate his political loyalties, saying: I love Clinton. I voted for him in '92. I voted for him in '96. Sure, the guy had an affair and he lied about it. But how much punishment should he receive?
Barr accused the White House of scarcely concealed glee over Flynt's spree of disclosures of sexual misconduct by congressional Republicans. Republican Party chairman Jim Nicholson dubbed Flynt a Clinton buddy, who was acting in concert with a White House campaign of sexual terrorism against its political foes. By refusing to condemn the actions of Flynt and others like him, the White House has proven that its lofty statements against the politics of personal destruction are no more than empty words, Barr said. Flynt said his information was the opening salvo of his bare-knuckle effort to expose politicians with double standards and said he had an even bigger fish than Barr to expose along with seven lesser Republicans. His next expose, says Flynt, will include a videotape of a politician holding hands with a woman, not his wife and going into her house. I feel very strongly that if [this material] materialises, the Republican party will be in a shambles, claims Flynt. My reason for getting involved was that I saw the polls showing a majority of the people were against impeachment, he says.
Late last year, Louisiana's Republican Congressman Bob Livingston abandoned his bid to become House Speaker after learning that Flynt planned to expose several affairs he had.
The cigar-smoking Flynt has been confined to a wheelchair since 1978 when he was shot by a White gunman angered over Hustler photos of an inter-racial couple. Incidentally, that same gunman also admitted shooting and wounding Vernon Jordan, the Washington lawyer and Clinton confidant who is a key figure in the Lewinsky investigation.
Although Flynt made his fortune and fame from publishing the pornographic Hustler, he entered the history books by having the US Supreme Court decide in his favour that satire and parody should be protected by the First Amendment securing free speech.
The Flynt expose comes as the Senate tries Clinton on two counts relating to the Lewinsky perjury scandal. Flynt's investigation began in September when he published a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post offering $1 million for documentary evidence of any adulterous affair with a politician or high-ranking government official. Flynt says he paid his informers according to the importance of the individual coveredthose bringing in information about low-level politicians received between $50,000 and $100,000. It is not the first time that Flynt has offered bounty money for dope on subjects that interest him. He once offered $1m for new information on the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Flynt, a Kentucky native, now lives in Beverly Hills, California in opulence. Born into crushing Appalachian poverty, Flynt started his career as porn entrepreneur, owning a string of X-rated strip joints. In his now out-of-print autobiography, An Unseemly Man: My Life as Pornographer, Pundit and Social Outcast, Flynt discloses that his first sexual experience was with a chickenwhich he then killed. Asked why he had admitted to having had sex with a chicken, Flynt told a reporter: I always tried to be honest and I have always looked for it in other people. Paul Krassner, who served briefly as Hustler's publisher in 1978, says: He [Flynt] always wanted to be a political player. Krassner now runs the alternative paper The Realist in Los Angeles and points out that Flynt wanted to play a part in politics and in the culture of the country. And he got what he wanted.
And this has left political analysts worried, if not squirming. Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at Claremont Graduate University, told a reporter: It's almost as if we as a society have fallen through the looking glass. This is dangerous to democracy. It's dangerous to the First Amendment and it only adds to the cynicism we see out there. This is sexual bounty hunting. Adds the famed Harvard University law professor and author of Sexual McCarthyism, Alan Dershowitz: I don't like Larry Flynt. I don't like what he does. I don't like his magazine. I don't like him outing people. I don't like this at all.
When politics becomes pornographic, pornographers become pundits, remarked Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. Everett Dennis, a journalism professor at Fordham University in New York, explains: The media really goes ballistic on matters of hypocrisy. If you can find somebody who is anti-gay who's himself gay, or someone who's a great moral leader who's a womaniser, it makes for better copy than someone who's regarded as a sleaze in the first place.
Flynt gained some respect when the 1996 movie, The People vs. Larry Flynt, portrayed him as a First Amendment warrior. Flynt, who put naked Jackie Onassis in a famous '75 Hustler issue, doesn't have much respect for the respectable media. The media is driven by economics. I want to vomit when I hear some of the grand old men of journalism step to the podium talking about integrity. Flynt's magazine was so shocking that it even drew barbs from the likes of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. It outraged feminists, stunned the religious right and prompted court cases across the country. Counters Flynt: We never had any pretensions about what we did. We gave people what they wanted.
Flynt now operates a multi-million dollar company that publishes a tribute to Princess Diana one month and a fetish magazine dedicated to the toe-suckers of the world the next. We're into a little bit of everything, he told a reporter. And gets angry when people call him just a smut peddler. I demand that they call me 'Mr Smut Peddler' because I've earned it. Flynt has been often quoted as saying, Smut is my vocation; politics is my hobby.
The porn publisher describes Hustler, which is 25 years old, as my baby and adds: That's where I got my start. ... I'm not looking for respectability. Tim Bostic, editor of The Salyersville Independent, says of Flynt:" There's an old saying in the mountains the rascal might be a damn rascal, but he's our rascal."