Smear with Care

by Robert Butts | 11/13/03 6:00am

Larry Flynt likes to portray himself as an activist. After all, in 1988 he won a landmark court case that affirmed First Amendment protection for pornography. During the Clinton impeachment, Flynt showed his commitment to public service by famously offering $1 million to anyone who could expose a Republican member of Congress as an adulterer. Just this year, Flynt's name was among the hundred-plus candidates vying for governor in the California recall. None of this, of course, changes the fact that Mr. Flynt's day job is as a pornographer. But he wants you to know that he's a pornographer who cares.

Flynt's caring nature was on display this Tuesday, when he released a statement to the Associated Press claiming that he had purchased nude photographs of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the army supply clerk who was captured in combat in Iraq and rescued by a coalition raid this April. A caring pornographer like Mr. Flynt would never embarrass a war veteran and POW like Jessica Lynch, though, so Mr. Flynt's statement assured the public that he would not publish the photos which he purchased.

"Jessica Lynch is a good kid," the statement read, "she's not a hypocrite or out to fool anyone." Presumably Mr. Flynt's caring nature would not allow him to publish photos of a such a good kid; it merely allowed him to pay money for the pictures and then humiliate the good kid in question by making the photos very public by publicly promising not to publish them. Jessica Lynch may not be "a hypocrite or out to fool anyone," but the same cannot be said about Mr. Flynt.

So why pay all that money for the privilege of not printing photos? Flynt apparently perceives his announcement as a protest against the president. "She's just a victim of the Bush administration, who is using her to justify the war in Iraq and force-feed us a Joan of Arc," the "Hustler" publisher said. He didn't comment about his justification for publicly smearing a 20-year-old combat veteran to make a political point.

Just to prove Flynt's commitment to not making the photos public, Flynt's publicist refused to comment about their nature. Sort of. "At this point Mr. Flynt has no comment as to the content of the photographs except to say Jessica Lynch is not wearing any clothes in them," the publicist said. So I guess by "no comment," what Flynt's publicist really meant was that she'd comment on them so that other people wouldn't have to comment, which of course they can't since Mr. Flynt won't be using the photos. Or am I getting that straight? It all seems a bit, well, disingenuous to me.

Fortunately, as Flynt managed to note, Lynch is a "good kid" and a tough one too. After surviving an ambush in Iraq and weeks as a prisoner of war, lying injured in an Iraqi hospital, Flynt's stunt hardly compares. As Lynch said of her time in Iraq, "I wasn't going to let myself die there. I was determined. In my mind, I was thinking, 'I've got family to get back to, I've got a boyfriend, I've got all these things to see and do when I get home.'" So I have a feeling she'll survive Larry Flynt as well. But this certainly isn't the kind of homecoming that she -- or any other veteran, for that matter -- deserves after such service to our nation.

Larry Flynt can't stand that Jessica Lynch became a hero in a war that he doesn't approve of. I'm sure that the pornographer-who-cares fancies himself as the real American hero in this story, for daring to stand up to the horrible Bush administration through his public commitment not to publicly humiliate Lynch. As Flynt himself told "The Washington Post" years ago, he serves this country by "looking to expose the hypocrites."

Hopefully someone will point out to Flynt that it's Lynch and her fellow soldiers who are really serving the country. And, if Larry Flynt is looking to expose a hypocrite, he can dip into his "Hustler" fortune and buy a mirror.