Larry Flynt, the porn publisher behind Hustler magazine, has died at the age of 78.
He died on Wednesday morning of heart failure, TMZ said.
His brother Jimmy Flynt confirmed the death but did not cite a specific cause.
Flynt, born in Kentucky, had been in a wheelchair since 1978, when white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin attempted to kill him as he left court in Georgia.
Franklin shot him and left him paralyzed, in retaliation for Hustler publishing images of interracial sex.
A self-described ‘smut-peddler’ who transformed his Mid West strip clubs into the $100 million Hustler empire, Flynt was passionate about personal freedoms.
His life was made into a 1996 film, The People vs Larry Flynt, starring Woody Harrelson, Edward Norton and Courtney Love, which chronicled his rise to fame and his clashes with religious institutions and the law.
Larry Flynt, pictured in March 2009, died on Wednesday morning of heart failure
Flynt is seen in November 2004, celebrating his 62nd birthday at The Hustler Club in Paris
Flynt and his fifth wife, Elizabeth Berrios, are pictured at the Oxford Union in February 2014
Flynt was married five times, and had five children – his daughter Lisa Flynt-Fugate died in a car crash in Ohio in October 2014, at the age of 47.
Woody Harrelson in the 1996 film
He married Elizabeth Berrios, his former nurse, in 1998.
In 2013 he told The Hollywood Reporter he was estranged from four of his five children, because he claimed they just wanted his money and were not prepared to show an interest in running his business.
It was unclear if they had reconciled at the time of his death.
Flynt told the magazine that he maintains a special place in his heart for his fourth wife Althea, who was bisexual and died of AIDS in 1987.
‘Althea was the love of my life,’ said Flynt.
The pair met when the 17-year-old runaway started dancing in one of his clubs.
They married in 1976 and remained married until her death in 1987.
In the 1996 film, Althea was played by Courtney Love.
Woody Harrelson starred as Larry Flynt in the film The People vs Larry Flynt
Flynt is pictured at home in Los Angeles in March 1979
Flynt opened the first Hustler Club in Ohio in the 1960s and created an empire
Flynt was born into poverty in Magoffin County, Kentucky – the oldest of three children born to a sharecropper and a housewife.
At 15 he joined the army, having forged his birth certificate.
He was honorably discharged, and became for a brief time a bootlegger before enlisting in the navy in July 1960.
Discharged at the age of 22, Flynt took $1,800 from his savings and bought his mother’s bar in Dayton, Ohio. With the profits he launched several more, and then the Hustler Club, featuring nude hostess dancers.
When recession pushed his string of Ohio-based strip clubs toward bankruptcy in 1974, Flynt turned what had been a black-and-white newsletter into the most sexually explicit magazine in the United States.
The publication’s August 1975 issue of nude photos of Jackie Kennedy Onassis brought attention and dramatically increased sales for Hustler.
Hustler claimed a monthly circulation of three million in the mid-1970s, though Forbes said it peaked at two million in 1976.
With explicit sex on cable television, on DVD and on the internet, its circulation fell sharply in the 80s and 90s.
In 1977 he briefly declared himself a born-again Christian, after befriending evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton, sister of President Jimmy Carter.
He toned down Hustler’s content, but then returned to normal operations and announced he was an atheist.
Larry Flynt is pictured at home with Althea in March 1979. She died in 1987
Harrelson and Love in the film The People vs Larry Flynt
In the late ’80s, televangelist Jerry Falwell sued Flynt for libel and the emotional distress caused by a Hustler cartoon that implied Falwell’s first sexual encounter was with his mother. He won in a lower court.
But on February 24, 1988, the Supreme Court deemed that if a public figure could receive damages for distress, any kind of satire or parody would be impossible.
The case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, is now taught in law schools.
In September, when Falwell’s televangelist son, Jerry Falwell Jr, 53, was accused of being in an open marriage, Flynt said he was among ‘a parade of charlatans’ who preached moral purity, yet failed to live up to their own standards.
Falwell Jr was forced to resign as president of the evangelical Liberty University on August 25 after details emerged of his marital turmoil.
His wife Becki is alleged to have had a seven-year affair with their pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, 29. Granda told Reuters that the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell looked on.
Falwell Jr’s wife Becki , pictured, had a seven-year affair with pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, 29
Falwell Jr left the conservative institution after a 13-year career there, but walked away with a $10.5 million payout.
Flynt accused Falwell Jr and his fellow evangelical megapreachers of being ‘obsessed above all with sexual behavior, ignoring and subverting the core message of Christianity – humility and compassion for the downtrodden – while embracing “prosperity gospel,” which is to say the gospel of greed above all other values.’
Writing in The Daily Beast, Flynt, a long time Democrat donor, criticized Falwell Jr and other evangelicals for their support of Donald Trump, who has been married three times.
‘They support Republican politicians eager to gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and other programs designed to do what Jesus Christ strived for: the reduction of human suffering in this vale of tears,’ he wrote.
Granda said that he had an affair with Becki Falwell for seven years with Jerry Falwell’s consent
Flynt criticized Falwell Jr for his staunch support for Donald Trump
‘They live in multimillion-dollar mansions and fly around in private jets, while fleecing their flock for “prayer donations” guaranteed to cure incurable diseases and afflictions.
‘They forget that Jesus Christ only lost his temper and acted violently once: when driving the money-lenders from the temple. But they are not troubled in the least by the banksters on Wall Street, who hoovered up millions from middle-class Americans, granting the 1 percent a get-out-of-jail-free card to do it all over again.
‘Instead, these evangelists reserve the whip for gays, women who want to control their own bodies, pot smokers, and other “heretics” who are only trying to lead fulfilling lives.
‘They actually work to increase the sum of human suffering. They are peddlers of religious snake oil.’
Falwell Jr was crucial in marshaling evangelical support for Trump – a task Flynt described as lifting ‘the orange buffoon over the hump in 2016’.
Flynt also made a political run himself.
In 1983 he ran for president as a Republican in a long-shot bid, running on a platform of fighting sexual repression.
‘I want to keep Big Brother out of your bedroom,’ he said at the time.
‘If the government can control the single strongest drive you have, they can control anything, and that’s the road to fascism.’
Asked, during his campaign launch event, what indication he is receiving that the public is taking his candidacy seriously, Flynt said: ‘We get letters saying ‘I haven’t voted in five years, but you’ve given me an excuse to now.’ People know I’m honest, they know I’ve got nothing to hide.’
Flynt in 2014 with the cover of his magazine, on its 40th anniversary
Woody Harrelson, who played Flynt in the 1996 film of his life
He opposed the death penalty, and insisted that he did not want Franklin put to death.
He favored same-sex marriage. He spoke out against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
A private foundation he created contributes to research in spinal cord injuries, child abuse and youth violence.
During Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, he paid for an advertisement in The Washington Post to offer to $1 million for proof that a member of Congress or other senior government official was enmeshed in an adulterous affair, in a bid to show the hypocrisy of Clinton’s Republican adversaries.
In October 2016, he offered $1 million reward for ‘scandalous’ material that would see Trump impeached.
He sought ‘verifiable video footage or audio recordings for use prior to the November 8 election clearly showing Donald Trump engaging in illegal activity or acting in a sexually demeaning or derogatory manner.’