In the early 1980's Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell sued Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt after his magazine published a satirical ad claiming Falwell lost his virginity in a drunken hookup with his mom in an outhouse. Falwell claimed this ad caused not only emotional distress, but also libeled him.
The libel claim was dismissed, but courts did award Falwell $200,000 for the emotional stress and damages. Flynt appealed, but the decision was upheld. In 1988, it went to the Supreme Court who threw out the award and decided that First Amendment rights protect the right to parody public figures.
The famous battle between Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt was depicted on the big screen in the film "The People vs. Larry Flynt", which starred Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love.
As news of Falwell's passing yesterday made its way around the world, many eyes turned to Flynt to see what his reaction would be. Larry Flynt wasted no time, and issued the following statement:
"The Reverend Jerry Falwell and I were arch enemies for fifteen years. We became involved in a lawsuit concerning First Amendment rights and Hustler magazine. Without question, this was my most important battle – the l988 Hustler Magazine, Inc., v. Jerry Falwell case, where after millions of dollars and much deliberation, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in my favor.
My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.
The most important result of our relationship was the landmark decision from the Supreme Court that made parody protected speech, and the fact that much of what we see on television and hear on the radio today is a direct result of my having won that now famous case which Falwell played such an important role in."