CNN’s Don Lemon hosted pornographer Larry Flynt on Sunday’s Newsroom, ostensibly to talk about an upcoming Supreme Court case in which the 1988 case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell is being cited as a precedent. But Lemon quickly turned to politics, asking the Hustler publisher to regurgitate tawdry details of Republican Senator David Vitter’s prostitution scandal (as if CNN wasn’t in the process of actively rehabilitating a Democratic politician caught in a similar scandal) and begging Flynt to reveal “tips” and “hints” about other politicians who might be exposed.
Showing greater restraint than the CNN anchor, Flynt replied, “I can’t do that.”
It’s bizarre that an anchor on CNN, which touts itself as “the most trusted name in news,” would ask a pornographer to smear public officials by name without any independent journalistic corroboration. Larry Flynt is no gift to ethics, but he seemed to understand better than Don Lemon the need for restraint.
Talking about an unnamed senator who might be gay, Flynt claimed “we were ready to expose the senator at one time, but then the guy who is really his lover was actually married and that produced a kind of conflict that we didn't want to — that we didn't want to go to.”
If that element of Flynt’s story is true, does anyone think CNN would show similar restraint in harming a third party if given the chance to torpedo a Republican’s career?
Here’s the transcript from the 6pm ET Newsroom on October 3, an interview later replayed in the 10pm ET hour:
DON LEMON: So this week, as we mentioned, the Supreme Court is taking up the case of anti-gay protests during military funerals. At first glance, it probably makes no sense that "Hustler Magazine" publisher Larry Flynt is connected to all of this, but this – really, his landmark case against the late Jerry Falwell is being cited by the defense for Fred Phelps, for Westboro Baptist Church leader, who organized those protests. Flynt isn't happy about that but he says he can't oppose it.
LARRY FLYNT: What they were doing, in terms of protesting the funeral of someone burying their dead, coming home from the war, I can't think of anything more despicable, more insensitive to do. You know, but Justice Rehnquist, in my case, he was a senior Supreme Court justice, and he wrote the majority opinion. And he said often things are done under the guise of the First Amendment with less than admirable intentions but the government had no right to suppress it.
So while we have the great basic freedoms like the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to assemble and to petition our government for redress, you know, we really can't get caught in a position, whether it's the mosque in New York or what the issue is or burning the Koran, where we are compromising the basic freedoms that our nation was founded on. And it's difficult cases like this one involving the protests of the funerals that the Supreme Court has to weigh in on.
I regret that they are using my precedent-setting case with the Reverend Jerry Falwell. I think it was slightly different in one respect, but in another respect it wasn't.
LEMON: Hey, let's talk about the Senate race in my home state of Louisiana. We're talking about David Vitter and Charlie Melancon. Of course, they're running -- Charlie Melancon is taking on David Vitter. How did a Hustler interview end up in a campaign ad for Melancon?
FLYNT: Well, we were the ones who really outed Vitter on this, and it wasn't a question of an indiscretion with a prostitute in Washington. But we concluded a case with the investigation in New Orleans as well. This guy was like the Energizer Bunny at the same time he was going around about abstinence, you know.
I mean, he was probably one of the biggest philanderers in the Senate. So, I'm often accused when I expose people like him, just doing it to expose his sex life. Nothing can be further from the truth. What I'm exposing is the hypocrisy. I don't want...
LEMON: Well, let me ask you. You have offered $1 million for anyone who can come forward to your magazine to say that they have had sex with a high-ranking official. Are you still doing that and do you have any tips yet?
FLYNT: We're still doing it. We always got ongoing investigations, but they take a while.
LEMON: So no tips?
LEMON: No tips yet?
FLYNT: I'll give you a couple of clues. We know we've got a gay senator, you know. We just like to see him come out of the closet. And I think we'll be exposing that in the next few months if he doesn't.
And I've got a really great story, a very high-ranking Republican talking to a woman on a cell phone, and we have the tape where he said -- oh, she mentioned family values to him. He said, "Oh, family values, that’s crap, I just talk about that on television." Well, we felt, boy, this is a real doozie.
LEMON: You want to give us an idea of either one of these guys? The senator? No hints?
FLYNT: I can't do that. My attorney says you can't use the tape because it was taped in Pennsylvania, which requires two-party consent so you can't use it. So, I mean, those are the kind of things that we're up against. But we constantly have interesting investigations going on at all times. We were ready to expose the senator at one time, but then the guy who is really his lover was actually married and that produced a kind of conflict that we didn't want to -- that we didn't want to go to. We wanted better evidence.