Hustler Founder Larry Flynt Talks Presidential Sex, Porn Empires, and Bad Politics

Like the unrepentantly skeezy, unexpectedly political monthly porno mag he founded, edited, and expanded into a worldwide publishing empire, Larry Flynt has been "hardcore since '74."

That's the official tagline at least. But really, Flynt's wild and seedy misadventures actually stretch all the way back to the day -- November 1, 1942 -- when he was born poor, white, and weird in Kentucky hill country.

At the age of 9, he fucked a chicken. He illegally joined the army at 15. And he became a smut peddler at 31.

He was almost assassinated by a white supremacist serial killer at 35. He beat televangelist Jerry Falwell in the Supreme Court at 46. And now, Flynt's 68 years old and he's written a new book, One Nation Under Sex, detailing the White House's secret sexual history, including the gay affairs of President James Buchanan, the lesbo dalliances of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Slick Willy's mastery of the pullout technique.

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Last night, after his stop at Books & Books in Coral Gables to promote One Nation, Larry Flynt spoke with Cultist about presidential sex, porn empires, and bad politics.

Cultist: Your book exposes presidents, first ladies, and other government types through the centuries for their sexual hypocrisies. Are politicians just hardwired to lie? Or does sex make them particularly uncomfortable?

Larry Flynt: Well, the ones I've gotten to know in my investigations over the years, a common trait they have is enormous egos and these egos have to be fed through their sexual conquests. And it's almost universally present in every politician. Most of them have a lot of baggage that's caused by their ties with the Church, religious upbringing, and guilt. But it doesn't make for good politics being in the public eye all the time.

Do you think it's actually possible for a person to be a successful politician while also being open about their sex life?

No. I hope the day will come. But I doubt that the atmosphere exists today.

Is it that Americans continue to be hung up about sex? Or is it something about the culture of politics?

Well, we have a knee-jerk attitude toward sex. Other than the desire for survival, sex is the strongest desire that we have. So it encompasses our whole lives and it affects everything about who we are.

When you launched Hustler did you intend for it to have a political and activist bent? Or did that aspect of the enterprise come out of people trying to prevent you from publishing things that they considered obscene or dangerous?

I think in the beginning we knew that we were more than just irreverent. We were iconoclastic. We dealt with a lot of social and political satire. That was by design and it gave us a magazine that was cutting edge. We offended a lot of people. But I always felt the First Amendment was only important if you were saying something offensive, because, if you're not going to offend anybody, you don't need protection. You know, the New York Times don't have to worry about it.

There's this general impression that we're living in an age of perfectly proportioned free speech -- just enough limits but not too many. Do you think that's true? Or are things still too restrictive?

Well, all you've got to do is take one look at the Patriot Act to realize that everybody in America can have their phone conversations recorded and their business files usurped. So I think that's a step way too far. Benjamin Franklin once said that those who would trade their civil liberties for security deserve neither.

See, they scare people into supporting the Patriot Act because we can't have another 9/11. And people just say, "Oh, OK." They don't care that they're giving up their civil liberties. But then how do they get them back? That's the problem now and it's up for renewal again. They're not going to get those liberties back.

Obviously, you're the man behind a world-famous porn magazine. So you're probably often asked about freedom of expression when it comes to sex. But what do you think about "hate speech"? Is that kind of censorship valid?

We pay a price for everything and the price we pay to live in a free society is toleration. We have to tolerate things that we don't necessarily like so we can be free, whether it's hate speech or Fox News or whatever.

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