BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Hustler founder and publisher Larry Flynt posted a video to YouTube yesterday in which he enthusiastically endorses former adulterer and South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford in his bid to represent the state’s 1st congressional district. Sanford is competing against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch (sister of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert) in a special election slated for May 7.
Flynt’s full-throated endorsement of a man he calls a “sex pioneer” comes with a promise to donate the maximum individual contribution of $2,600 to the Sanford campaign and a request to meet with the Appalachian trailblazer for a photo opp. Politico, however, has already squeezed a quote out of Sanford that throws cold water on any such assignation.
Sanford told Politico the question about Flynt’s endorsement was “silly,” and added, “It’s one of those endorsements that’s designed to hurt you…I can say with certainty that it’s not going to help me.”
Maybe, maybe not. Though Politico admits it is not sure whether the Flynt video “was intended to be satirical,” nothing about it indicates that Flynt is being anything but sincere in lauding Sanford for exposing the nation’s “sexual hypocrisy.” From June 18-24, 2009, Sanford disappeared while serving in office as governor, leaving his staff wondering where he was. He had reportedly said he would be hiking the Appalachian Trail when in fact he went to Argentina to see his Argentine mistress. He was eventually outed as a serial liar, but explained it was all for love. He refused to step down, and was divorced by his wife, who moved out with the couple’s four kids shortly after news of the current affair and her husband’s serial cheating over the years went public. Sanford is now engaged to the girlfriend, María Belén Chapur, and is seeking redemption from the voters by way of the ballot box.
The entire saga, from disappearance to attempted resurrection, is steeped in sex, marriage, public trust, faith and personal fidelity, issues that have always inspired and motivated Flynt, who has said that had he had not become a pornographer he would have been a preacher. It therefore makes perfect sense that Sanford’s blind devotion to his own personal needs at the expense of any personal, professional and spiritual values he may have previously espoused would of necessity elevate him to emblematic hero status for a man like Flynt. Likewise, the opportunity for Flynt to publicly support Sanford for being “America’s great sex pioneer” was simply too great, despite reservations he says he had.
“My endorsement has not been an easy decision for me,” he admits, partway through the video. “Even though Mark Sanford has emerged as a sexual leader, he is a liar. He lied to his staff and he lied to his wife, he lied to his children and he lied to the people of South Carolina. Despite his journey down this Appalachian Trail of deceit, I support him for exposing the hypocrisy of traditional values. The liar has exposed the greater lie.”
It’s a seminal event that Flynt not only had to acknowledge, but reward.