Larry Flynt and Journalism

February 4, 1999

Columnist Richard Cohen recently asked what the difference was between Larry Flynt and mainstream journalism. After all, those who condemn Flynt in many ways blazed the trail that Flynt is now following.

It was not Hustler magazine but the Miami Herald that broke the story that Gary Hart had entertained a woman other than his wife at his Washington town house. That was followed by the Washington Post asking Hart if he had "ever committed adultery."

Or how about the reporting of former governor of Ohio, Richard Celeste? The mainstream press reported that he had an extramarital affair and then lied about it.

The national press also published the most personal musings of then-Senator Robert Packwood, whose diaries fell into the public record. It also published material about Senator Charles Robb. More recent revelations about Henry Hyde and his "youthful indiscretions" did not come from Hustler magazine but from a story run by Salon, the online magazine.

So in many ways, Larry Flynt is just the next logical step. Yes, he pays his informants so that he can ruin the career of Congressman Robert Livingston or charge Congressman Bob Barr with adultery and covering it up with an abortion. A charge, by the way, that the congressman denies.

But Richard Cohen is on to something. The line between Larry Flynt and the mainstream press is not as clear a line as many would like it to be. Years ago the national press made a conscious decision to pry into politician's private lives and expose all forms of sin. As much as they would hate to admit it, they opened the door for someone like Larry Flynt to walk through. Maybe it's time for the press to reconsider their original decision.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International