Larry Flynt, the controversial publisher who founded Hustler magazine, has died at the age of 78.
His daughter Theresa Flynt confirmed she was with her father, alongside his wife, when he died Wednesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Flynt started Hustler in the 1970s as a print extension of his adult club of the same name, which featured nude hostesses. As the pornographic publication grew in popularity, Flynt became the target of critics who called the magazine obscene.
Flynt’s legal battles over the content of his magazine are seen as historic cases of free speech. Flynt has fiercely defended his right to publish amid lawsuits and threats to his life.
Flynt was shot dead in 1978 as he left the Gwinnett County courthouse in Georgia, where he was on trial for distributing obscene materials. The attack paralyzed him from the waist down and the judge declared the trial overturned.
Joseph Paul Franklin, a self-proclaimed white supremacist and serial killer, claimed he shot Flynt and lawyer Gene Reeves, although a gunman was never identified or convicted.
Reverend Jerry Falwell sued Flynt in 1983 after Hustler ran a satirical ad claiming he had a drunken, incestuous relationship with his addictive mother. The parody was modeled after an actual advertising campaign for Campari, which included celebrity interviews.
In what is considered a landmark First Amendment case, Flynt appealed to the Supreme Court and won. The judges agreed in a unanimous decision that parodies of public figures are considered protected forms of speech and that Falwell could not seek damages for emotional distress.
“If we were to decide otherwise, there is little doubt that cartoonists and political satirists would be subject to damages without showing that their work falsely defamed its subject,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in his opinion .
Flynt’s corporate empire of Larry Flynt Publications and Flynt Management Group had humble roots. In the 1960s, he bought a bar in Dayton, Ohio where his mother worked and expanded it into a chain of adult clubs he called Hustler.
Hustler magazine started out as a newsletter for its clubs, but it grew in popularity and became a rival for Playboy magazine. Flynt gained national notoriety, however, when he posted nude photos of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis taken by paparazzi.
His life has been the subject of films and books, including the 1996 biopic “The People vs. Larry Flynt”. Woody Harrelson was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Flynt.