C-SPAN Strikes Flynt
By Howard Kurtz
Executives at the nonprofit network, which had been ballyhooing its intention to carry Flynt live, got nervous after watching the Hustler publisher on CNBC's "Rivera Live" and canceled the broadcast. C-SPAN did replay the Flynt event at 6 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. yesterday.
"It was just too bad," said C-SPAN Vice President Terry Murphy. "It would have been great to be able to show." But, he said, "we went with the recommendation from our lawyer. It was not an editorial concern as much as a legal concern about defamation and libelous statements being made."
The question, said Bruce Collins, the network's general counsel, was "what are the chances this thing would get out of control? We reached the conclusion that there was more of a chance than we'd earlier thought."
At the Los Angeles news conference at 11 p.m. EST, Flynt accused Rep. Robert Barr (R-Ga.) of hypocrisy for refusing to answer questions during a divorce from his second wife about his relationship with the woman who is now his third wife. Barr, one of the House prosecutors in the Senate impeachment trial, is a fierce critic of President Clinton's handling of his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
In an affidavit, Barr's second wife, Gail Vogel Barr, said that the congressman, a staunch opponent of abortion, paid for her to have an abortion in 1983 after they had already had two children. Gail Barr, who was paid by Flynt for her information, said Bob Barr drove her to the medical clinic and picked her up.
"He said it was entirely my decision. . . . Bob never told me not to have the abortion, or that he was in any way against my having the abortion," Gail Barr said. Barr had testified during the proceeding that the abortion was "against my wishes."
In a statement Monday night, Barr said: "As a public official who has cast dozens of pro-life votes in the Congress, and a strong opponent of abortion, I have never suggested, urged, forced or encouraged anyone to have an abortion." He did not address the specifics of his ex-wife's account.
On CNN's "Crossfire" last night, Barr again denied committing perjury in the divorce case and said his former wife "may choose to make money on telling these sorts of things as she sees it, or making things up."
During his unsuccessful 1992 campaign for the Senate, Barr told reporters he "would do absolutely everything in my power to stop it" if his wife or stepdaughter wanted to have an abortion, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Several hours before Flynt's news conference, Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson fired off a fax to C-SPAN Chairman Brian Lamb.
"Larry Flynt's attempt to embarrass and intimidate his political enemies is hardly on the same level with the congressional hearings and political debates C-SPAN normally broadcasts," Nicholson said. "Giving Larry Flynt this platform will, in effect, bridge what had been the considerable gap between your news organization on the one hand, and the worst tabloid and pornographic publications on the other." Murphy said he had been unaware of the fax.
While C-SPAN is dedicated to the idea of live, unfiltered coverage of public events, Collins said Flynt's "casual" demeanor on the Rivera show and "sketchy information" about the abortion caused him to worry about unfair attacks on Barr.
In hindsight, Collins said, "we could easily have aired it live, but we didn't have the confidence to do it just before air time."
Flynt told the 200 assembled reporters that he will be releasing sexual allegations against other Republicans, including one he described as a "big fish," in the coming weeks. But Dan Moldea, a Washington journalist hired by Flynt to investigate the allegations, says charges against several of the smaller minnows will not be made public.
"Some Republicans on Capitol Hill should be sending us flowers and thank-you cards," Moldea said. "They weren't going on TV talk shows shooting off their mouths [about Clinton], or going to the floor of Congress to seize the moral high ground. We've thrown them back in the river. We're not going to interfere with their lives. There has to be some higher purpose [in the disclosures] than tawdry sex."
Moldea said he had investigated the allegations against both Barr and Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.), the former House speaker-designate, who announced his resignation from the House last month after confirming that he had had extramarital affairs. "I'm the grunt crime reporter," Moldea said.
Moldea is probably best known for his unsuccessful libel suit against the New York Times over a review of his book on organized crime that accused him of sloppy journalism. He also has written books on the death of Vincent Foster and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. A critic of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, he secretly recorded calls from two of Starr's deputies indicating that the office regularly briefed sympathetic reporters. Moldea's hiring was first reported by Newsweek.
Asked about Flynt's approach of dribbling out the allegations, Moldea said: "We don't want the perception that we're a bunch of terrorists and we're going to kill a hostage a week until they release the president."
But Moldea strongly defended his work for Flynt. "If I worked for The Washington Post or the New York Times, I'd be up for a Pulitzer Prize for the way I handled the Livingston matter," he said.
Rivera, meanwhile, was catching flak from one Washington critic. Larry Klayman, chairman of the conservative group Judicial Watch, said conservatives should boycott the show "until Geraldo Rivera issues an apology" for allowing Flynt to "slander" Barr. Klayman was an occasional "Rivera Live" guest but has not been invited back in recent months.
CNBC spokesman John Brine said Flynt appeared on the show because "the material he was presenting was relevant to what's happening in Washington" and that "we were persuaded by the documents we reviewed." Flynt was interviewed yesterday on "Good Morning America" and "CBS This Morning" and was scheduled to appear on "Larry King Live" and "20/20."
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