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An NBC spokeswoman essentially confirmed Flynt’s account in an e-mailed response to a series of questions. “No discussion about the substance of the rumor took place with Mr. Russert,” said Barbara Levin. Flynt “contacted Mr. Russert, NBC News’ Washington Bureau Chief, and as is often the case, Russert simply passed the information on to a reporter to follow up. As you note, David Bloom did follow up and used his editorial judgment that the rumor was not solid enough to go with a story.” Levin commented that Flynt “called several news organizations, including NBC News,” but she declined to address why NBC reporters elected not to question Bush about the subject.
An exasperated Flynt decided to get the message out himself, though time was running short. Howard Stern interviewed him, but the segment ran only once, writes Flynt, on Stern’s live show. He also appeared on KROQ-FM’s Kevin and Bean Morning Showin August.
Then, on October 20, 2000, Flynt appeared on CNN’s Crossfire. The subject of the show concerned porn and the Internet, but Flynt took advantage of live TV to launch his spiel. Conservative host Robert Novak challenged Flynt as having “no proof.”
“The hell we don’t have proof,” Flynt retorted. (Of course, Flynt didn’t have proof.) Novak then asked Flynt if he was a Gore supporter. Flynt responded that he didn’t like either candidate and that he’d vote for the lesser of two evils.
The camera cut from Flynt, never to return. Liberal but skeptical co-host Bill Press sardonically remarked, “You never know. Live television.” Flynt claims that CNN expurgated this exchange from its transcript, and at the time, some online wags came to the same conclusion and quickly posted alerts. Currently, two versions of the transcript appear on the widely used Nexis database. One version has the full exchange about the alleged abortion. The other omits the discussion entirely. It’s identified as a “rush transcript” that “may not be in its final form and may be updated.”
Syndicated gossip Liz Smith finally picked up the story, with a few details off- kilter, on November 6, the day before the election. She wrote:
Hot on the heels of the George W. Bush DUI revelation (in Maine, it’s called OUI — Operating Under the Influence), comes word that porn-king muckraker Larry Flynt is charging that a girlfriend of W.’s, back in 1970, had an abortion. But that’s not the story, as there’s no evidence that Bush even knew about the pregnancy. The real story — according to the Internet’s About.com — is that Flynt’s remarks were apparently censored from CNN’s Crossfire, and the entire transcript of the show vanished from the CNN Web site. The media has been willing to crucify Bill and Hillary Clinton with the worst sort of specious rumor-mongering, so why was this sleazy tidbit too hot for the “responsible” press to ask about?
Her item on Bush was cut from her column everywhere, in more than 100 papers, except for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Flynt then contacted Daily Variety’s gossip columnist Army Archerd, who wrote on November 7, the day of the election:
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS? Larry Flynt says his comments about a hush-hush 1970 Houston abortion, on a rumored girlfriend of George W. Bush, have been stifled by the mainstream media. (Flynt claims knowledge of the identity of the girl, the hospital, etc. He never printed it, “because she’d deny it; you’d have egg on your face and you’d face a libel suit.”) Still, he’s more concerned with the fact that the media is ignoring the rumors . . . “My whole focus,” said Flynt, “was on the lack of investigation by the media — in other words, they never asked Bush.”
The story did get some international play just before the 2000 election in newspapers in England. And that was pretty much the end of it. Bush claimed the presidency unbesmirched by this particular tale. Eventually, Flynt decided to include the episode in his book.
The subject first came up at the Weekly, in recent times, when Flynt stopped by last fall to tout his vanity candidacy for governor during the campaign to recall Governor Gray Davis. Flynt took advantage of the interview to promote a proposed initiative that would permit non-tribal casino gambling — he owns a casino — as a way both to get personally richer and to help solve the state’s budget crisis. An editor asked offhandedly whatever happened to his investigation into Bush. That got Flynt going:
“We worked that story for six months,” he said. “We had everybody, including the hospital that performed the abortion, the doctor who did it, you know, affidavits from four of her friends. You know, we, we had it all. But at the last minute she stopped cooperating, and this was just about a month before the election.”
Flynt was shooting from the hip, without reviewing his own investigators’ files. The Weekly asked for documentation, but Flynt and his representative never provided it, though Flynt did discuss the matter at length in a late-April interview, after he reviewed his documentation. His book publicist said there were still libel concerns regarding the release of original documents. She said she also didn’t want articles to appear before they could assist book sales. Obtaining Flynt’s files became less necessary after people directly involved in the investigation agreed to talk freely and separately about their work, provided that their names not be disclosed. They were willing to share the real names, confidentially, of all the persons involved. The Weekly has not independently verified their accounts, which is why real names aren’t used here either. But their chronicles are believable, especially because they acknowledge that they ultimately failed to deliver the goods. There could be no hedging the evidence on a story like this, they said, especially when their employer was Flynt, whose credibility would be questioned.