Flynt sees dangers in federal action against CK ads

By Published on .

Friday, September 15, 1995

Larry Flynt finds the Calvin Klein affair "appalling."

No, Hustler's publisher isn't bothered by the jeans ads. But he thinks the advertising world should be up in arms over the prospect of the federal government taking action against Mr. Klein.

Ad and media executives "should come out and take the position that free expression is absolute, and the government cannot and should not have the right to legislate morality," Mr. Flynt said.

Mr. Flynt wishes ad people would set aside personal opinions about Calvin Klein Inc.'s recent jeans ads to consider the "chilling effect" of the government taking on the case.

Mr. Klein's fashion company hastily pulled its recent jeans ads, created in-house and featuring scantily clad young models in provocative poses, but the FBI and Justice Department are investigating the campaign.

"I think the Justice Department will proceed if they think they can get a conviction," Mr. Flynt told Advertising Age. "If they decide to move ahead with the case somewhere in Middle America, I think it is highly conceivable that they could get a conviction. That's really frightening."

Mr. Flynt sees no conspiracy in the government's Klein review. But he does see politics: Republican presidential candidates courting the right, and President Clinton coming out on the right side of family values by not getting in the way of Attorney General Janet Reno's investigation of Klein.

The publisher, soft-spoken and articulate, argues the Klein ads raise a question of taste, not obscenity or sexual exploitation.

"None of these kids was nude, and none of them was engaged in sex," he said. "Dirty minds are jumping to conclusions.

"Having strong legislation to protect children and prevent sexual exploitation is" necessary, Mr. Flynt said. "But you have to look at the advertising and the content. It really does not meet the test of obscenity. It does not violate the Child Protection Act. You are talking about a matter of taste. I just don't think you can legislate in that area . . . I find it appalling."

If consumers have a problem with the Klein ads, Mr. Flynt says, they should take it up with TV outlets and magazines that ran the ads.

Mr. Flynt believes it entirely appropriate for media to refuse ads. His magazines won't accept tobacco or alcohol ads. "That's not censorship," he said. "That's a personal decision made by me" as a publisher.

Mr. Flynt himself years ago was convicted on obscenity charges, though the sentence was overturned on appeal.

In 1988, Mr. Flynt also won a closely watched First Amendment case in the Supreme Court upholding his right to publish a fictional parody about sexual liaisons between Jerry Falwell and the evangelist's mother.

Copyright September 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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