By Debbie Siegelbaum - 03/17/11 10:34 AM EDT
Publishing mogul Larry Flynt has a new book on American presidential sex scandals coming out next month, but the longtime civil-liberties advocate has been hustling Washington for years.
Flynt revealed to The Hill his thoughts on the new Congress, how he makes sure every lawmaker gets his magazine and why exposing politicians’ indiscretions is so important.
The Hill has heard you send a copy of Hustler to every lawmaker’s office each month. Why?
It really started out as a joke about 30 years ago. I decided I was going to send all members of Congress and the Supreme Court and the executive branch a complimentary subscription to Hustler, just so they could keep up on current events. That’s sort of a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing. What came out of it was something phenomenal that we had never really dreamed of. You could cancel your subscriptions. Here they get over 400 and some subscriptions, and only about 20 percent of the [recipients] canceled their subscriptions. And so we thought that was hilarious. We got a big majority of both houses.
What made you first start sending the magazine to Capitol Hill?
Moses freed the Jews, Lincoln freed the slaves, and I just wanted to free all the neurotics. I’ve always said that my attitude from the beginning is if we made a little bit more of an effort to understand the medium we communicate with more than anything else, which is sex, then everybody would get along a lot better. We’ve always pushed that attitude, but you’ve got a lot of uptight rednecks in Congress, and they push back.
You’ve been affiliated with both parties at certain points in your life. Do you have any thoughts on this new Republican-led Congress?
You know, it’s depressing, I don’t even like to think about it … What the average American doesn’t realize is Congress doesn’t make the laws anymore. Who makes them is the Supreme Court. Congress has shrugged their legislative responsibility and left it up to the courts to do the legislating. And that’s dividing our country; the rich keep getting richer and the poor just get poorer; there’s nothing more true than that is today. And I don’t want to sound cold and bitter when I say that Republicans are mean, but they just are. They are downright mean, and it’s all about them. And I think we’re obligated to help take care of the less fortunate among us.
Is there a top priority that you would like to see this Congress focus on?
Because of special interests, everything is, like, totally misguided, whether it be gun legislation or all of this social-injustice aspect of what’s going on with big business, as it seems to play itself out as a facet of everyday American life. This is no longer kindergarten; you know, we’ve graduated now. This country is in really, really bad shape, and if somebody doesn’t turn it around fast and help it up, we might slip.
The Hill has heard you’ve offered $1 million for proof of conservative sex scandals in the past. Is that true?
Oh yeah — we do it once a year. We take an ad in The Washington Post … Over the last 30 years, we’ve probably exposed about three dozen corrupt politicians.
Is that just aimed at Republicans?
I’m not focusing on Republicans. It’s just that they’ve just got more to hide. They think they’ve got more magic. They think they’re magic. They’re on a guilt trip their whole lives, so when they finally get busted, they don’t know how to deal with it.
Why do you aim to expose sex scandals?
We’re not interested in exposing someone’s sex life. I’ve been advocating sexual freedom for my entire life. But what we are exposing is hypocrisy, and I think hypocrisy is the greatest threat to democracy that exists.
Are there any areas — other than sex scandals — in which you would hope to expose hypocrisy?
You know, the greatest right that any nation can afford its people is the right to be left alone. And that’s something that we have been shamelessly out to lunch on with the American people — with this Patriot Act, with who’s spying on who, and with whom to allow this information or that information. I just think that here we are, it’s George Orwell all over again, and nobody seems to get excited or seems to care about it.
You have a new political book coming out … (One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History will be released April 26.)
I went back to the founding of our nation and followed it all the way up through today, and reported out all the most notable sex scandals. And you know, when you look back, 200 years later, they’re still talking about Thomas Jefferson and his slave girl, Sally Hemings … From the very beginning, the Founding Fathers were a rowdy bunch of guys. Ben Franklin, in the newspaper where he published his advice columns, he wrote a thesis on the virtues of seducing older women. That was Ben Franklin, OK, so these guys were really characters. And that hasn’t changed today. If anything, the hypocrisy is more profound.
Should politicians expect their personal lives to stay private?
Everybody that goes into politics is supposed to be squeaky-clean, as you know, but we all know that they’re really not. It’s sad that we turn our government over to these hoodlums with no accountability, and very few people out there are doing any serious muckraking.
Do you think it’s fair to hold politicians to a higher standard because they represent us? Or should they just be more honest?
You show me somebody who has never experienced anything in life, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t know very well how to react in various situations. You need somebody who has lived … and I think that’s why it’s wrong to put someone in who is so squeaky-clean.
Is that because the American people expect them to be squeaky-clean; they feel they can’t be honest if they want to get elected?
Absolutely — that coupled with the fact that if you want to run for Congress as a Republican, no matter what your feelings are on abortion, you’ve got to immediately become pro-life or they won’t even endorse you. So a lot of the people that you’re seeing out there who are taking various positions, they had to do it in order to get on the ticket. And there shouldn’t be a litmus test for that.
Looking forward politically, are there any areas in which you would like to see changes made?
The most important thing that could be done on Capitol Hill now is for the congressional [Ethics committees] to be totally independent. And they must release their findings within 90 days. There are people up there who should have been kicked out of office 15 years ago, and they’re still waiting there now for an ethics decision. And that, of course, that speaks for the whole damn Congress.
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