Flynt Hustles Tale of GOP Hypocrisy

Impeachment: Publisher's revelations bring into question whether Rep. Barr can claim the moral high ground.

By Robert Scheer
Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, January 19, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times

Wait just a minute! Suddenly, the media elite is not interested in the sexual lives of politicians. After hounding the president for six years, they've decided that it's not fair to do the same to his enemies.

Leading news organizations, from the New York Times to the Associated Press, insist Larry Flynt has gone too far, and they refuse to report his revelations concerning the hypocrisy of Rep. Bob Barr, the lead congressional actor in making the personal life of Bill Clinton the nation's business. It was the Georgia Republican who first called for Clinton's impeachment two years ago and who's now the pit bull among House prosecutors.

Barr's passion to get the president stems from many sources, including racial politics. Like Senate GOP leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, Barr has been associated with the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which considers race mixing a grave threat to the nation. Both have lied about their involvement with the racist group, an involvement that betrays their oaths to uphold the equal rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

But race has been kept in the background while the Republican right wing finds it more advantageous to stress "family values" issues relating to abortion and gay rights. Thus, Flynt's information on the thrice-married Barr's betrayal of those values, laid out in a sworn affidavit by his ex-wife Gail, is highly relevant.

Barr has attacked Flynt while avoiding the specifics of his ex-wife's charges. But Gail Barr is a credible source; she worked as a CIA analyst, was granted custody of the Barr children and works today for the federal government. According to her affidavit: "When I became pregnant the third time, I was 38 years old, concerned with health complications the pregnancy might present, and Bob's [legal] practice was slow, and he was not home much. We did not have any health insurance. I asked Bob what we should do, whether I should have an abortion. He said it was entirely my decision and that I should do whatever I wanted to do."

Exactly the point of the pro-choice argument: It's only the woman, faced, as was Barr's wife, with the complexity of a pregnancy, who should make the decision. Yet Barr has led the battle in Congress against choice, no matter the circumstance, including rape, incest and when the mother's life is at stake.

Barr was also principal author of the Defense of Marriage Act denying the states the right to recognize homosexual marriage. He argued that if homosexual unions were accepted, "The very foundations of our society are in danger of being burned. The flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundations of our society: the family unit."

His assumption is that gays, unlike heterosexuals, are incapable of living by a morality that is not self-centered. Yet Gail Barr's affidavit states her husband put his political ambitions before her needs when she was diagnosed with breast cancer: "I asked him to stop campaigning after my cancer surgery and while going through chemotherapy, but he refused. . . He never went to the chemotherapy treatments with me. He was not there for me when I needed him."

Contrast Bob Barr's "narcissism" with the loving example set by tens of thousands of homosexuals who have nursed their partners through the ravages of AIDS. But in the eyes of the right wing, gays are damned not by what they do but by who they are. Otherwise Trent Lott would not be blocking the nomination of much respected San Francisco philanthropist James Hormel as ambassador to tiny Luxembourg.

Finally, a word on the "hedonism" ascribed by family values conservatives like Barr to homosexuals and anyone else critical of right wing divide-and-conquer politics. According to Gail Barr's affidavit, Bob Barr had an extramarital affair with a woman who was to become his third wife. Yet, when he and the woman were deposed in the divorce proceeding, both refused to answer, on grounds of possible self-incrimination, questions about their alleged adultery. If that principle of privacy had been extended to Clinton, think of the grief the country would have been spared.

We owe Larry Flynt for giving the nation a reality check. Of course, we wouldn't need him if the religious right congressmen had just remembered that wisdom in the Bible about not casting the first stone.