- LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Politicians
are talking about being "Larry Flynted" and Rep. Bob Livingston
warns darkly of "government by Larry Flynt."
- Suddenly Flynt, the self-described "pornographer,
pundit and social outcast," is being taken seriously on Capitol Hill.
- As senators get ready to put President Bill Clinton on
trial, the publisher of Hustler magazine is threatening to serve up a second
helping of the kind of scandal that drove Livingston to resign from the
House. Flynt has hinted only that his next target is a "big fish"
- The campaign to unmask what Flynt calls hypocrisy in
the Clinton investigation is shaking up more than politicians. Some political
experts fear that in driving the public discourse to new lows, Flynt will
deepen cynicism about the impeachment process and government in general.
- "This is dangerous to democracy," said Sherry
Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at Claremont Graduate University.
"It's dangerous to the First Amendment and it only adds to the cynicism
we see out there. This is sexual bounty hunting."
- This is a man who made his name with a hard-core sex
magazine that once pictured a woman being put through a meat grinder, a
man who went to the Supreme Court over a magazine spoof ad suggesting the
Rev. Jerry Falwell lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse.
- Flynt, who is 56 and has been in a wheelchair since a
1978 assassination attempt, won the Supreme Court fight. He gained a shred
of legitimacy in some eyes when the 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt,
portrayed him as a First Amendment hero.
- Now he is making waves on Capitol Hill.
- Livingston, a Louisiana Republican who was about to take
over as speaker of the House, turned down the gavel and said he would resign
from Congress in six months after admitting he had had adulterous affairs.
- Flynt had flushed Livingston out after putting an advertisement
in the Washington Post offering to pay up to $1 million for verifiable
information on adultery by members of Congress or other government officials.
- Flynt said he will hold a news conference next week to
make his latest disclosure. He described his next victim as a Republican
House member who has been a strong critic of Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky
scandal. "This guy is really a gem," Flynt said. "We've
got enough to go on now, but we are waiting for an affidavit from his ex-wife."
- He said that he will probably name a third politician
later next week, and that he is paying between $3.5 million and $4 million
to a number of women who responded to his ad. At some point he will publish
details not in Hustler, but in a one-time magazine called The Flynt Report.
- "Certainly, scandal-mongering goes back to the beginning
of the republic," said Gary Jacobson, a political science professor
at the University of California at San Diego. "But now it is on this
huge financial scale. It's a sign of the times."
- Flynt's previous forays into mainstream celebrity have
included offering a $1 million reward for new information in the assassinations
of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
- The shooting that paralyzed Flynt from the waist down
was blamed on a man incensed by an interracial photo spread in Hustler.
The same white gunman also admitted shooting and wounding Vernon Jordan,
the Washington lawyer and Clinton confidant who is a key figure in the
- "He always wanted to be a political player,"
said Paul Krassner, who did a brief stint as Hustler publisher in 1978
and now runs the alternative paper the Realist in Los Angeles.
- "He wanted to play a part in politics and in the
culture of the country," Krassner said, "and he got what he wanted.
But he paid a very high price for it."