“Hustler” publisher Larry Flynt, whose legal battle with televangelist Jerry Falwell led to a landmark First Amendment Supreme Court decision, died Wednesday at the age of 78.
Flynt’s brother Jimmy confirmed his death to The Washington Post Wednesday but did not identify a cause.
Flynt, born into poverty in rural Kentucky, started “Hustler” in the 1970s as a newsletter advertising a chain of strip clubs he owned in the Cincinnati area. The magazine quickly became popular, but was criticized by both anti-pornography activists and second-wave feminists, who decried its content as misogynistic.
Flynt was repeatedly prosecuted on obscenity charges through the 1970s. In 1978, a gunman shot him outside the Gwinnett County, Ga., courthouse, partially paralyzing him, which required him to use a wheelchair.
White supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin later claimed credit for the shooting, saying it was in retaliation for the magazine depicting interracial sex, but he was never prosecuted for it.
In 1983, “Hustler” ran a parody liquor ad that quoted Falwell as saying he had lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse. Falwell sued for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Five years later, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that public figures cannot sue for emotional distress for obvious works of parody.
The case made Flynt a standard-bearer for free speech activists and was dramatized in the 1996 film “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” starring Woody Harrelson as Flynt.