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Jewish World Review March 31, 1999 /14 Nissan 5759

David Corn

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The Flynt Fizzle

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IT WASNíT THE FIRST TIME I was disappointed by a pornographer.

As I flipped through Larry Flyntís latest assault on the moral hypocrites of Washington, an 82-page document dubbed The Flynt Report, one word came to mind: dud. The report is closer to the Soviet-style propaganda hailing the Great Leader (in this case, Flynt) than it is to investigative journalism.

Most of the report rehashes Flyntís noisy crusade against the anti-Clintonites. Thereís an interview with Larry Flynt. Thereís fan mail received by Larry Flynt. Thereís an account of a press conference held by Larry Flynt. Thereís a piece on the mediaís treatment of Larry Flynt. Thereís also a picture of a topless beauty, with the caption: "Most congressmen wish that their hidden skeletons were as attractive as this woman." (No, she is no government officialís mistress; sheís merely window-dressing.)

In between all the paeans to "Americaís Pornographer," the report reviews preexisting derogatory information on leading Republican members of Congress, including Henry Hyde (extramarital affair), Dan Burton (extramarital affair and out-of-wedlock child), Helen Chenoweth (affair with a married man), Dick Armey (charges of inappropriate behavior with female students when he was a professor) and J.C. Watts (two out-of-wedlock children).

The not-too-special report revisits Flyntís glorious strikes against Near-Speaker Bob Livingston and House impeachment manager Bob Barr.

Flynt
Alas, it does not deliver on Flyntís promise to produce further hard information on the sexual exploits of values-thumping GOPers. Instead, it irresponsibly tosses out tiny morsels of unconfirmed gossip about Sen. Tim Hutchinson and Reps. Mary Bono and Charles Canady. The report is not even substantial enough to be called thin gruel.

While staring at its pages, searching for material over which one could become excited, I was reminded of the first time I saw a porn film. The occasion was a parents-are-away party at a friendís house during high school, and the host was displaying the illicit celluloid courtesy of Dadís home movie projector. The overly mechanical images were utterly unfulfilling and hardly stimulating. I felt dirty, without any reward. Thatís the sensation caused by this report.

Itís not that Flyntís million-dollar offer attracted no other flies than a Livingston mistress and Barrís second ex-wife. The pornographer had concrete evidence on other prominent Republicans, but legal obstacles intruded. Moreover, three events occurred that "chilled us," says Dan Moldea, a veteran Washington investigative reporter who worked for Flynt but who had "absolutely nothing" to do with the flimsy Flynt Report.

After Livingston outed himself and resigned, Livingstonís wife called Flynt and pleaded with the hustler to look no further into her husbandís affairs. Flynt has said that conversation caused him to consider the collateral damage his project might wreak. He told Moldea to forget about Livingston and move on to the next guy.

Lateróas the world waited for another Flynt bombóa Republican woman contacted Moldea. She was sobbing. She worked with a man who thought he was on Flyntís hit list, and this fellow was saying he would kill himself if his sexual antics were revealed. The woman begged for a heads-up, so she could arrange to be by the manís side when the dime dropped.

"That caused us to ask, ĎHow can we live with this?í" Moldea recalls. Then, in another instance, an informant who had made contact with Hustler was careless with a confidentiality agreement the magazine had sent the informant, and one of Flyntís targets discovered he or she was in the crosshairs.

"We thought the informant might be at physical risk, that this person would be hammered," Moldea notes. After these episodes, Moldea says, "we lost our spirit. They showed there was a real dark side to the whole process. Larry Flynt recognized there was a human cost to this and showed some serious restraint and compassion."

Flyntís reluctance was reinforced by political developments. When Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat who had been critical of Bill Clinton, called for a quick end to the impeachment trial, the Flynt gang concluded there was no chance Clinton was going down; they decided to hold their fire.

Bagging another Republican could only complicate matters and inflame proceedings that appeared to be breaking in Clintonís favor.

"The decision was, ĎLetís sit back and see what happens,í" Moldea says. As the trial stumbled along, Flynt liked what he saw and found no reason to pull the trigger. "He could have moved ahead and ruined some people," Moldea adds. "Once it became clear we had won, Larry Flynt became almost docile."

With that the case, the inside back cover of The Flynt Report is surprising. In between a red headlineó"Got Sex? Want Money?"óthe text reads, "Larry Flynt believes that anything worth doing is worth doing again." So heís still offering money for "documentary evidence of illicit sexual relations" with members of Congress and other prominent officeholders.

This time, heís not promising a million dollars: "How much will we pay if we choose to publish your verified story and use your material? Call today, and letís talk about it."

For his part, Moldea, whose book on Vince Foster (A Washington Tragedy) concluded Foster had killed himself, is working on a new one, a first-person account of his involvement in Whitewater, Monicagate and the Flynt Follies. On the GOP sex front, he says, he is not going to name any new names.

Flynt had a good idea. Those who run on family values but live by their own freewheeling rules deserve exposure. But itís nasty business, especially when it entails negotiations over money and when "documentary evidence" is required.

You want to deal with illegal tapes a la Tripp and chase after secret lovers, hoping to snag video footage? Even Flynt, a fellow with no taste, could not sustain his appetite for this sort of scandal. The Republicans are lucky that Flynt isnít as sleazy as they believe.


JWR contributor David Corn is the "Loyal Opposition" columnist at New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

03/24/99: Liddy and St. Steve
03/19/99: Hope in Hollywood
03/12/99: Clinton: The Novel
03/08/99: A Tale of Two Clintons
03/04/99: ..and Dumber
03/01/99: Post-Mortem Ad Nauseam
02/25/99: Whatís Next?


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