In the waning days of the presidential campaign Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler Magazine, offered a $1 million dollar reward for any explosive video tapes and other evidence showing sexual indiscretions by then-candidate Donald Trump.
The action mirrored Flynt’s similar cash offer during the Bill Clinton impeachment process, when Republicans were hell-bent on removing the president from office because of the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern. In October of 1998, Flynt paid for a full page ad in the Washington Post offering up to a million dollars for anyone who could prove an “an adulterous sexual encounter with a current member of the United States Congress or a high-ranking government official.”
The cash offer led to information on extramarital affairs by then-incoming House Speaker Robert Livingston, who was replacing Newt Gingrich. Livingston resigned.
As highlighted in my novel Them Hustlers, Flynt’s offer, and the resulting response from thousands of tipsters, was a core factor in starving off the resignation of Bill Clinton.
Even prior to Flynt’s recent offer, the twists and turns of this recent campaign prompted me to issue Them Hustlers in a print edition. The primitive pursuit of political power by our elected politicians, as woven into my story of businessman Phil Greene’s engagement to the “money” lady for the Louisiana delegation, is, unfortunately, more than timely today. In the book, the Louisiana delegation stops at nothing, even using the ancient art of voodoo, to assure the ascension to the speakership of Congressman Livingston.
As the dust settles on the 2016 election, one of the questions lingering in my mind is just why Larry Flynt’s most recent offer had minimal political impact when compared to the 1998 offer.
Is it because there are no other examples of explosive behavior by Donald Trump? Don’t think so.
So why the absence in 2016 of an outpouring of evidence from people eager for the cash reward?
Well, in 1998 a sitting president was being vilified by his opponents because of a relationship that was wrong on all ethical and moral levels. But those leading the political charge against Clinton held themselves out to be morally superior. The “Moral Majority” Republicans attacked the personal Bill Clinton, not for his presidential actions but for his personal actions. Larry Flynt’s million dollar offer revealed how the moral gap between these Republican men and Bill Clinton was not so great after all. At least four attacking married Republicans were shown to be having affairs.
The 2016 campaign was nasty on many levels. Both sides were vilified, both sides were painted as being less than presidential. Hilary Clinton for standing by her man in the face of his many sexual allegations, and Donald Trump for using his celebrity status to take advantage of women.
The American public revealed a new level of sophistication to the public arena. It is not necessarily the allegations alone that are politically explosive; it is the hypocrisy involved by the messenger. As quoted in the introduction of Them Hustlers, former Democratic congressman Dick Gephardt calls on Americans in 1998 to “stop destroying imperfect people at the alter of an unobtainable morality.”
In the election of Donald Trump we seem to have heeded Gephardt’s advice. Slowly, for better or worse, we lurch in the America of 2016 towards removing our candidates from pedestals and judging them more and more like our neighbors.