Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Larry Flynt: Douchebag of Liberty

In all honesty, Larry Flynt is not the type of guy I want to be when I grow up. With that proviso, he is certainly a useful ally in the culture war against sanctimonious and hypocritical right wing moralists. The latest casualty of Flynt's meddling appears to be GOP Senator David Vitter of Louisiana.

Vitter's admission that he used the escort service is tied to a call from a telephone number listed in public records in his name in Washington on February 27, 2001. Until late last week, a federal judge had prohibited Palfrey from publicly releasing her phone bills, but the ban was lifted and the entire archive — which Palfrey has said would weigh in at roughly 46 pounds in paper form — has been placed on her website. Members of a team assembled by self-described pornographer Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, are understood to have identified Vitter's name through their own analysis of Palfrey's phone records. Flynt has a long record of exposing what he regards as "hypocrisy" on the part of politicians who tout family or religious values, while falling short in their own lives. Flynt recently placed a full page adverstisement in the Washington Post, asking, "Have you had a sexual encounter with a current member of the United States Congress or a high-ranking government official?" It went on to offer $1 million for documented evidence, and listed a toll-free number and email address.

For me, there is an extra frothy layer of icing on this schadenfreude cake, because Vitter is the hypocrite who replaced Bob Livingston in the House after he resigned owing to sleuthing by Flynt and his minions. As Blue Girl has posted, it's not the sex that is the issue for me, it is the hypocrisy. I would go so far as to say, it's the criminality. In this, I am seconded by the DC Madame herself, Debra Jean Palfrey.

And as the so-called "D.C. Madam" whose escort service Vitter says he used, Palfrey says the agency she ran was merely one-half of the alleged equation. "Why am I the only person being prosecuted?" she told TIME over the phone. "Sen. Vitter should be prosecuted [if he broke the law]" Palfrey has been battling prostitution-related charges in federal court in Washington, and became a celebrity of sorts in May when ABC's 20/20 ran a story on her service "Pamela Martin & Associates."

In his prepared statement Monday night, Vitter did not address whether he broke the law, how many times he used the escort service, when he stopped using it or whether he recommended the service to others. His office did not respond to requests for comment on those issues. But Palfrey argues that those potentially prurient details of Vitter's activity are key to her case. "If Sen. Vitter participated in any illegal behavior, illegal sex, illegal prostitution, intercourse or oral sex of any kind, you would have to wonder why he would not be prosecuted," she said. Palfrey's legal defense is that no prostitution took place because the escorts who worked for her business were issued strict written instructions not to engage in illegal sexual activity. Indeed, Randall Tobias, the senior State Dept. official who admitted using the service and then resigned, has claimed that he only received "massage." Palfrey's lawyer says Vitter will be called as a witness to testify under oath in her court case.

I must say I agree with Ms. Palfrey. I don't think Vitter has the class of even Livingston, so voluntary resignation is probably not on his agenda; but prosecution should be on the DC courts agenda. Censure, at the very least, should be on the Senate's agenda.

By the way, what's this wingnut obsession with "massage" therapy?