Larry Flynt is known for controversy. And now, he's out with a brand new book about the sex lives of our presidents: One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and their Lovers Changed the Course of History. I talked with Flynt about his book, sex in America and his career.
Let me start off with the obvious question: Why should we care about the sex lives of our presidents?
Well, this wasn't just to expose people's sex lives. I actually wanted to know if the relationship between First Ladies, mistresses, lovers -- if they really affected political policy. And we found out that on many occasions that it did. So, even though First Ladies are not elected to public office, they often have a great deal more effect than we're aware of.
You make a lot of accusations in your book. A lot of the people that you write about in the book though, are long since dead. How do we know any of this stuff is true?
I just start in the beginning with Thomas Jefferson -- a great man. No one wanted to admit that the guy who drafted the Declaration of Independence would father six children by his slave girl Sally Hemings. It took us almost two years to confirm that. And it was confirmed in 1998 by DNA. So, even though it had been rumored during the founding years of our nation, it had not been substantiated until then. You've got one case after another of similar situations.
I want to pick a couple of anecdotes from your book and ask you about them. There have been rumors about this one forever -- You say that Abe Lincoln slept with men.
Yeah. I was also very careful not to say he was gay. He did sleep with men. We don't know why or what happened while he was doing it. But, we were able to establish without a doubt that this happened.
Who do you think was the most sexually promiscuous President?
It's a toss-up between Warren Harding and Jack Kennedy.
You know that Americans are infatuated by sex. It's in our daily lives. It's in our culture -- on TV, in magazines. Why do you think Americans are so fascinated, so obsessed by sex?
Other than the desire for survival, the strongest single desire that we have is for sex. And we use it to communicate more than any other medium. There's no doubt because of the significant role that sex plays in our lives that it would have a great deal effect on our culture. I would hope that eventually Americans would become more like the Europeans in terms of not having such a knee-jerk attitude toward sex and be a little bit more laid back about it. I don't know if I'm going to see that in my lifetime or not but it'd be nice if it happened.
In an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, you said this: "I always felt Moses freed the Jews, Lincoln freed the Slaves and I wanted to free all the neurotics. And I realized in the process that I've helped millions of people get through puberty. I think that's a great accomplishment." What do you mean by that?
Well, to have young men come up to me in their 30s and 40s and shake my hand at a book signing and say, 'Mr. Flynt, I just want to thank you for helping me make it through puberty.' I knew what he was saying. To me, that's the greatest accolade that anyone could pay me.
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more