Flynt's revelations on Congress a flop

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The Independent Online
LARRY FLYNT, the publisher of Hustler magazine, promised to deliver devastating revelations about the Congressmen who were trying to nail President Bill Clinton for perjury. His first effort, however, has been something of a damp squib.

Mr Flynt offered up to a million dollars for tales of the great and the good at their worst. He had been ready to release a report on Bob Livingston, the Republican Speaker-designate of the House of Representatives, but then a Washington newsletter beat him to the draw.

Mr Livingston had had a series of affairs, which did not go down well with the Republican party. He resigned, to Mr Flynt's evident disappointment, after heavy pressure from his own colleagues.

Great speculation had built up over the next target. In a televised press conference yesterday, Mr Flynt released the next instalment in what will become the Flynt Report, a publication that lifts the lid on politicians' private lives.

The name in the frame was certainly suggestive: Bob Barr, a very right- wing Republican from Georgia, who had been demanding the President's impeachment for well over a year. Mr Barr is also one of the managers who will run the impeachment trial of the President in the Senate.

During divorce proceedings against his second wife, Gail Vogel Barr, Mr Barr had refused to answer questions about his liaisons with the woman who would become his third wife, Mr Flynt said. He had used a section of state law that is similar to the Fifth Amendment when asked whether he had been faithful to his wife, according to court transcripts. Ms Barr also told the Flynt investigators that her husband - a sworn opponent of abortion - took her to have an abortion while they were married, in 1983.

"He drove her to the clinic, he picked her up afterward. He paid for the abortion," said Mr Flynt. Mr Barr put out a statement saying that he had "never suggested, urged, forced or encouraged anyone to have an abortion".

Partly because it had been so heavily hyped in advance, and partly because it was less than spectacular, the first part of the Flynt report failed to galvanise much press reaction.

The mainstream media has also been sniffy about the whole affair, since it regards Mr Flynt as simply a pornographer. The Washington Post relegated the story to page seven, and it was written by the paper's media correspondent, not one of the political staff. The US broadsheet press traditionally treats its politicians with great deference.

Yet there is something of an irony in the story. The point of the revelations was to show Mr Barr as a hypocrite, who defends family values while marrying three times - not to tell lurid tales of his sexual affairs. There is nothing salacious about the report, certainly much less than the Starr report into President Clinton. It was entirely appropriate to focus on whether Mr Barr had told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, since that is what is at issue with President Clinton.

Mr Flynt says he has a bigger fish to fry, though as he failed to garner the headlines with his first report, it remains to be seen what he can do now. His next expose will include a videotape of a politician with a woman who is not his wife, and there is more to come.