Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt dead at 78

LOS ANGELES — Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler, a pornographic magazine he founded in 1974, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 78.

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Flynt’s brother Jimmy Flynt confirmed the death to The Washington Post but did not cite a specific cause.

TMZ was the first to report that Flynt had died. The website, citing “family sources,” said Flynt died in Los Angeles of heart failure.

Flynt began Hustler in 1974 as a deliberately raunchy alternative to Playboy and Penthouse, which led to numerous legal battles and an attempt on his life.

“Playboy and Penthouse,” Flynt once told an interviewer, “were parading their pornography as art, with the air-brushing and the soft lens. I realized that if we became more explicit, we could get a huge piece of this market. ... I sensed that raw sex was what men wanted. And I was right.”'

During the late 1980s, Jerry Falwell sued Flynt for libel caused by a Hustler cartoon in its November 1983 issue that implied the televangelist’s first sexual encounter was with his mother, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Falwell won in a lower court, but on Feb. 24, 1988, the Supreme Court ruled that if a public figure could receive damages for distress, that precluded any kind of satire or parody.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that public figures, such as Falwell, may not recover for the intentional infliction of emotional distress without showing that the offending publication contained a false statement of fact which was made with “actual malice.”

A film about the case, “The People vs. Larry Flynt” was released in 1996 and starred Woody Harrelson as Flynt.

On March 6, 1978, Flynt was in Lawrenceville, Georgia, facing obscenity charges, CNN reported. As Flynt returned to the courthouse, two shots struck Flynt. Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer, confessed to the shooting, which left Flynt paralyzed from the waist down and confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Flynt published his autobiography, “An Unseemly Man” in 1997.

Flynt, a ninth-grade dropout from eastern Kentucky, parlayed a string of Ohio bars into a multimillion pornography empire of magazines, private clubs, a casino in California and an online sex toy store, the Post reported.

Flynt championed other causes besides First Amendment issues. He opposed the death penalty and even filed a last-minute legal motion with the American Civil Liberties Union to try to halt the 2013 execution of Franklin, who had been convicted in several murder cases, CNN reported. He favored gay marriage and spoke out against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Post reported. He published several non-pornographic mainstream periodicals and established a private foundation that worked on researching spinal cord injuries, child abuse and youth violence., according to the newspaper.