By Kasia Anderson
Watch out, philandering politicos: Larry Flynt is hot on your heels. The Hustler impresario is as tenacious as an irate pit bull in his latest crusade to expose hypocrisy on Capitol Hill, and his efforts have already borne fruit in the form of Louisiana Sen. David Vitter’s confession that he patronized “D.C. Madam” Debra Jean Palfrey’s escort service in 2001—and, according to Flynt, that exposé may well be just one of many to come.
Flynt held a press conference Wednesday at his Hustler headquarters in Beverly Hills to field questions about the Vitter case and to drop tantalizing hints to the assembled reporters about other promising leads generated by his June 3 advertisement in the Washington Post offering $1 million to any reliable source who could provide “documented evidence of illicit sexual or intimate relations with a Congressperson, Senator or other prominent officeholder.” Currently, he has “twenty-some investigations going that all look good,” almost all resulting from sources who responded to the Washington Post ad, and many of them about “high-ranking Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and the House.” In fact, Flynt said, his team has received more responses from the Post ad than it had from earlier, similar initiatives, including his effort against critics of President Clinton during the 1998 impeachment hullabaloo. “I don’t know if there’s something in the air, or if it has to do with election year,” he mused.
The self-styled porn baron promised to vet all the cases carefully and stressed that he doesn’t care about politicians’ sex lives as such. “If I got one important thing to say here,” Flynt said, “this is not a witch hunt.” Rather, his mission is to expose those in power who publicly profess to lead a particular kind of life (and, as in Vitter’s case, attempt to legislate how others should conduct their sex lives) while contradicting their own moral codes in private. To Flynt, politicians like Vitter are hypocrites who shouldn’t be allowed to represent their people in government. “Unfortunately, we have too many of these guys in Congress,” he said, “and I’m gonna do my part to get them out of there.”
In regard to Vitter, one investigator from Team Flynt obtained a separate set of records than ABC’s “Nightline” reporters did. The records included the senator’s phone number, which, Flynt cheerfully pointed out, his sleuth put to use Monday. Instead of answering that call, Vitter slipped out the back door and promptly held a press conference with the AP to get a jump on the pending disclosure. “Maybe he thinks he’s going to be able to regroup, but he’s got to deal with his home state now,” Flynt said—just hours before the news of Vitter’s alleged visits to a Louisiana brothel broke.
When asked whether his anti-hypocrisy crusade leans heavier to one side of the partisan divide, Flynt admitted that “Republicans are more fun, because they get caught so easy and live a repressed life.” Another reporter wondered if he wasn’t on a “moral rampage” himself, which drew a characteristically colorful response from the dogged free-speech advocate and professional provocateur: “The government, for a total of about 15 years, did everything they could to put me in prison [for publishing Hustler]. You’ve got people who don’t have an ounce of the character that I have that are running our government. And I’m saying, this is payback time ... and payback’s a bitch!”
AP Photo / Kevork Djansezian
Kickin’ political backside and takin’ names: Larry Flynt holds court at Wednesday’s press conference in Beverly Hills.