Hustler founder and free-speech activist Larry Flynt dies aged 78

Larry Flynt in 1978
Flynt in his home in 1979, the year after he was shot and paralysed

Larry Flynt, founder of Hustler magazine and self-proclaimed “smut peddler who cares”, has died aged 78.

Flynt died at his home in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning, his brother Jimmy Flynt confirmed to Washington Post. His career spanned more than five decades, with Hustler’s launch in 1974 propelling him to fame. However it also attracted controversy, and was the subject of repeated law suits – as well as making Flynt the subject of an assassination attempt.

He was shot in 1978 while standing outside a courthouse in Georgia, during a trial for obscenity. The shooting left Flynt a paraplegic, he had his wheelchair gold-plated and lined with velvet. The man alleged to be the perpetrator was never charged. However he was executed years later, in 2013, in connection with a series of unrelated murders, Flynt opposed his execution. During the 1970s, Hustler’s popularity grew, hitting a circulation of two million by the end of the decade.

His legal battles were pioneering, too, and were depicted in the 1996 film The People vs Larry Flynt, in which he was played by Woody Harrelson. One lawsuit in particular saw Flynt sued for a sexual parody cartoon of televangelist Jerry Falwell that appeared in Hustler in 1983.

Larry Flynt
Flynt won his case on appeal to the US Supreme Court

The cartoon, a fake advert, showed Mr Falwell saying his first sexual encounter had been with his mother in an outhouse. Mr Falwell sued Flynt for $50m (£36m) for libel and won in a lower court, but the case went up to the US Supreme Court. Flynt then won the case with a unanimous 8-0 verdict, which reinforced free speech rights and protections for satire in the US.

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