Video: Larry Flynt and the First Amendment

by Clay Calvert, special contributor

Larry Flynt, the septuagenarian publisher of Hustler magazine, is one of the most controversial figures in First Amendment jurisprudence. He is legendary for simultaneously pushing the buttons and boundaries of sexual expression in the United States while fighting key free speech fights against figures such as the late Jerry Falwell, who headed the Moral Majority and founded Liberty University.

The 1988 case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, in which Flynt scored a unanimous victory before the U.S. Supreme Court protecting an ad parody that suggested how Falwell lost his virginity, is what makes programs ranging from The Daily Show to South Park to Saturday Night Live possible.  Flynt also has fought important, but far less known, federal court fights for press access to U.S. military operations in both Afghanistan and Grenada.

Flynt was interviewed July 24, 2014 at Hustler’s headquarters in Beverly Hills on the fortieth anniversary of Hustler magazine.  Steve Johnson of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications produced the video of the interview.

An explicit interracial pictorial in a 1975 issue of Hustler provoked a shooting in 1978 in Lawrenceville, Ga. that left Flynt paralyzed from the waist down. An avowed racist, Joseph Paul Franklin – already on death row in Missouri – later confessed to shooting Flynt. In November 2013, Franklin was put to death in Missouri by lethal injection.

Clay Calvert is director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

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