It would be too easy to give a Chutzpah of the Week award to George W. Bush for his press conference "performance." (Actually, one could even narrow things down to his answer to the first question, posed by Helen Thomas, not to mention restoring to Ms. Thomas the honor of asking the first question.) However, as was the case with Michael Moore in May, there is a certain amount of sociological hygiene in recognizing positive acts of chutzpah; and, in that respect, Moore would be a viable contender this week for the way in which he turned an interview with Wolf Blitzer that was supposed to be about his movie into an attack on the biased practices of CNN. However, in the interest of diversity, I would like to assign this week's award to Larry Flynt on the basis of his press conference in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, which was reported by Kasia Anderson for Truthdig, even if no one else bothered to cover it.
Here is the basic story:
Flynt held a press conference Wednesday at his Hustler headquarters in Beverly Hills to field questions about the Vitter case and to drop tantalizing hints to the assembled reporters about other promising leads generated by his June 3 advertisement in the Washington Post offering $1 million to any reliable source who could provide “documented evidence of illicit sexual or intimate relations with a Congressperson, Senator or other prominent officeholder.” Currently, he has “twenty-some investigations going that all look good,” almost all resulting from sources who responded to the Washington Post ad, and many of them about “high-ranking Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and the House.” In fact, Flynt said, his team has received more responses from the Post ad than it had from earlier, similar initiatives, including his effort against critics of President Clinton during the 1998 impeachment hullabaloo. “I don’t know if there’s something in the air, or if it has to do with election year,” he mused.
Note that I have included the Truthdig hyperlinks, because they give some indication of which sources have regarded Flynt's recent activities as newsworthy. This is not to imply that this week's award is honoring something that happened a little over a month ago. Rather, it is an award for both the "progress report" and Flynt's general demeanor in facing the press. What probably tipped the balance for me was the final paragraph of Ms. Anderson's report:
When asked whether his anti-hypocrisy crusade leans heavier to one side of the partisan divide, Flynt admitted that “Republicans are more fun, because they get caught so easy and live a repressed life.” Another reporter wondered if he wasn’t on a “moral rampage” himself, which drew a characteristically colorful response from the dogged free-speech advocate and professional provocateur: “The government, for a total of about 15 years, did everything they could to put me in prison [for publishing Hustler]. You’ve got people who don’t have an ounce of the character that I have that are running our government. And I’m saying, this is payback time ... and payback’s a bitch!”
If George W. Bush has tainted our government with every negative connotation of the noun "crusade," then the chutzpah of Flynt's style provides a few weights on the positive side of the balance pan. More power to him!