HUSTLER Editor and Publisher Larry Flynt is scrapping with the United States Justice Department for full access onto the front lines of combat in the Afghanistan conflict. Mr. Flynt believes that the limitation of press access by the Department of Defense is a simple case of First Amendment rights being violated. Larry is confident that if his case makes it all the way to the Supreme Court, his publications, and any other media that values free press liberties, will some day again be able to report from the battlefield in a truthful, unbiased way.
Flynt took time out from his hectic schedule to fill in HUSTLER.com on some of the recent developments in his lawsuit, as well as to announce a new venture: a political watch web site designed to keep a critical eye on government officials and media sources that try to corrode America's way of life.
HUSTLER.com-What do you hope to achieve by starting this political watch web site?
Larry Flynt-Since its inception, HUSTLER has always been involved in political and social issues. A lot of the media coverage is rather scattered, and not really concentrated. We felt that this would provide us with an opportunity to let people know where we're coming from, and where we're going, and what our intentions are on issues such as free speech, individual rights and civil liberties. Things of this nature.
HUSTLER.com-Isn't criticism of U.S. policy during this time of war unpatriotic?
Flynt-No, but it's unpopular. Some people may think it's unpatriotic. Benjamin Franklin once said, "People who would trade their liberties for securities, deserve neither." I think George Bush could learn a lot from Benjamin Franklin. And if Roosevelt had conducted World War Two like Bush is conducting this war endeavor, we wouldn't even have the History Channel today. It's more than just covering the war-you need to preserve for prosperity's sake. People who send their children to die in these wars, they deserve to have it covered by a free press. And to know how the government is conducting the war, that is our business. This is not just exclusively the government's business.
HUSTLER.com-Will you explain why you plan to sue the U.S. government for the right to place HUSTLER reporters with American troops in Afghanistan?
Flynt-We're filing to get access for the press in Afghanistan or any other areas where this Enduring Freedom takes us-whether it be the Philippines, Sudan, Yemen or wherever. If you look at the TV, you see a map of Afghanistan, and you see a half dozen reporters basically reporting from all these different locations, like they've got the latest scoop on the war. These people are remote and isolated. They are nowhere close to the front line. Many of them are 100 miles or more away; so when we're talking about accompanying the troops into battle, that's exactly what we mean. As a nation, we've had a long tradition, dating all the way back to the Civil War, of being able to do this. It continued up through World War One, World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. It was in the 1980s, after Reagan became President, that many of the politicians felt they got burned by the press because of Vietnam-in the sense that the press actually stopped that war. They started treating members of the press as adversaries, rather than people they could work with. When Reagan invaded Grenada, the press didn't have a clue. When Bush Sr. goes into Panama to get Noriega, the press wasn't involved. Afghanistan was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I think that there's a lot of frustrated journalists out there, that unfortunately are not in a position to speak their mind as I am. In many ways, the major networks are concerned-not so much about press access to Afghanistan as they are to who's in line to get the next interview with George and Laura Bush. So that's what sets us apart.
HUSTLER.com-Are you optimistic that your recent lawsuit to allow journalists front-line coverage will have a favorable outcome?
Flynt-I don't like to try to predict the outcome of a legal matter, but there's no precedence to this suit. That's good in one respect, because the Supreme Court tends to like cases like that. Never in the history of our country has any court been asked to decide if the press has a First Amendment right to cover the war. This is a question that we really want answered by the court. My attorneys think that we stand a very good chance of taking this case to the Supreme Court. Only time will tell. We have a court date coming up sometime in the next month [February 2002] where we'll be rearguing the case, but it doesn't matter who wins and who loses-us or the government. Whichever side loses will appeal. And it will be appealed to the Circuit Court-Federal Circuit Court-and from there to the United States Supreme Court. All we can do is just hope for the best.
HUSTLER.com-Why aren't more people alarmed about the current conflict between the Justice Department and the Bill of Rights?
Flynt-American's are in a misled quandary because they have totally confused justice with revenge. Because of what happened in New York, the consensus of our country is, "We want revenge. Let's burn those dirty bastards." It's fine to feel that way, but that means that we're throwing our system that we're so proud of in the trash can. We want to become vigilantes, rather than seeking justice. We're so proud of our judicial system. If we're so proud, what are we doing setting up these war tribunals? Why can't they get a fair trial in this country? The whole thing just doesn't make very much sense. HUSTLER.com-What kind of response did you receive from publishing your Flynt Report?
Flynt-It was a very popular thing to do at the time, and it was very well done. That's another thing that we have going for us-credibility. When I got involved in that impeachment fiasco, I knew that they'd crush me like a bug if they had the opportunity. We probably employed a higher degree of journalistic standards than the mainstream media did, in terms of the way we conducted that investigation, and the way in which we were releasing information. Whether you're someone that's happy we exposed those hypocrites, or whether you're someone who's pissed off that we did it, one thing is for sure-no one can say that was wrong. Because we were right. All the way. I remember when Bob Livingston resigned, he did an interview with the New York Times, and he referred to me as a "bottom-feeder." They called me for a comment, and I said, "Yeah, that's right. But look what I found when I got there."
HUSTLER.com-How long have you been in this battle against self-serving politicians?
Flynt-We've been doing it ever since the late 1970s, when Wilbur Mills and Wayne Hayes got involved in that sex scandal, where they had secretaries on the payroll who didn't know how to type. They were just there for sexual purposes. Any time there's a scandal, we always try and get involved.
HUSTLER.com-What spurred you to commit your resources to exposing injustice within the U.S. government?
Flynt-I'm not looking to expose anyone about their sexual preferences or sex lives, anything of that nature. But if someone is taking a public position contrary to the way he's living his private life-as an example, Bob Barr stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and said that abortion is equivalent to murder. And at the same time, he's a man who drove his wife to get an abortion and paid for the procedure. To me, those guys don't deserve to be in office. On the other hand, if you got a guy that doesn't necessarily give the impression that he's anything other than somewhat of a player, a swinger, and he happens to be a member of the Senate, you can't bother this guy. He's not putting himself forward as something that he's really not.
HUSTLER.com-How long can you keep up this campaign against politicians who are dying to limit our freedoms?
Flynt-We constantly receive information. We have to evaluate it as it comes in.
HUSTLER.com-Are there any lines you won't cross in the cause of holding big government accountable?
Flynt-We're always truthful and ethical. We make sure we have the facts, and we always let our position be known up-front as to why we're taking whatever stance it is.
HUSTLER.com-What's been your greatest victory?
Flynt-My greatest victory was the Supreme Court decision I won in 1988 against the Reverend Jerry Falwell, where I got a unanimous decision making parody protected speech. It's considered one of the most important First Amendment cases of the last century.
HUSTLER.com-Who are some political columnists that you feel are trustworthy?
Flynt-Tom Friedman from the New York Times. Tom Rich, Seymore Hersh and Bill Safire. Unfortunately, a lot of journalists have a tendency to be biased. I'm mentioning guys to you that seem to do a good job in keeping their biases out of their reports.
HUSTLER.com-What news sources, print TV and online, do you feel give the most real information?
Flynt-Believe it or not, cable is doing a pretty good job. They've pretty much relegated network television to a second-class position. You've got a 24-hour feeding frenzy, and they put out a lot of information.
HUSTLER.com-Do you feel that one person can make a difference in the fight to make the government honest?
Flynt-I used to think, when I started out as a young man, that one person can make a difference. Now, I'm not so sure. Whether it be Napoleon, Lincoln, Roosevelt or Churchill, I'm not sure if the landscape of the world, and the various cultures, would have really changed that much had these people not been around. Maybe somebody else could have handled it equally well. I don't want that to be interpreted as me knocking Lincoln or Roosevelt or Churchill. They were all great men who I admire a great deal. I just often wonder how much difference one person can really make.