When politics, sex, and rumors mix in a desert resort setting, we want to assure our readers that Undercurrents will go to great lengths to report on it. And when it involves the strange bedfellows of our least favorite presidential candidate, George W. Bush; our favorite publisher, Larry Flynt; and that tattletale Lucianne Goldberg, we just have to cross the country to listen in.
The event started with the weird confluence of Republican politics and weekly newspapers at the Association of Alternative Newspapers convention in Phoenix (which also marked the 30th anniversary of Phoenix New Times).
We thought the room rates were high at the Biltmore until we heard what George W. Bush was charging for a plate of food at a fundraiser in the same hotel: $1000. We nosed around the ballroom entrance, hoping to get a word with Dubyah, but the hulks with the earpieces shooed us away, saying it was private.
The issue of how much of a politician's private life is public brought Goldberg out of her suite to speak to us newspaper geeks at a cocktail party/seminar. You'll remember the Republican Goldberg convinced Tripp to tape Lewinsky in an attempt to bring down the Democrat Clinton. Goldberg was qualified to speak on this privacy issue because of her training as a Nixon dirty trickster in 1972, when she posed as a journalist to get dirt (who was doing whom, who snorted what) on the real journalists who were covering McGovern.
She now has a disturbing view of what qualifies as news on her Internet site. Goldberg admits that she is willing to post rumors, especially if they hurt her political opponents, and she doesn't really care if they're truthful or not: "I'm in hog heaven, it's like the Wild West. The rules of the game have changed." Joe Conason of the New York Observer likes the old rules regarding checking facts before publishing -- whether it's on the Web or not. "It's a license to lie," he says of Goldberg's rumor slams. She countered by attacking columnists, such as Conason, who supported Clinton during the impeachment, as, "just a bunch of pamphleteers for this drop-trouser President."
And speaking of men and nudity, the keynote speaker at the First Amendment luncheon was Flynt, porn purveyor and a man who's been shot and jailed because of it. He rolled out in a gold-plated wheelchair to tell us that he's been sued 17 times over his "Asshole of the Month" political cartoon. His defense: the truth. After all, everyone has one.
It was wonderful to see Goldberg, of all people, questioning Flynt about his $1 million reward for information on politicos who had sexual indiscretions that nobody knew about. Flynt said his phone lines were swamped by a thousand snitches. He then gathered evidence and outed Speaker-elect Bob Livingston, who told the press that Flynt was just a "bottom feeder." To which Flynt replied, "Yeah, but look what I found when I got down there."
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Goldberg asked the Hustler why he hadn't revealed many Democrats' sexual proclivities, and he answered that the Demos had done more in the past century to defend the civil liberties in which he strongly believes (and which he needs in order to keep making money).
His next comment made a few journalists drop their dessert forks. Flynt claims still to have a number of investigative files filled with scandalous information he hasn't used yet. "I'll have something major to release after the political conventions in July," he said mysteriously.
Let's see, he's a Democratic supporter . Whoa. It doesn't take an investigative reporter to figure out a certain presidential candidate is going to get bushwhacked.
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