Kausfiles Special

The Pornographer Who Didn’t Bark

So, Newt Gingrich has been having an affair with congressional aide Callista Bisek for six years–since before the Republican Revolution of 1994. Why didn’t Larry Flynt tell us about it when it mattered? You remember: Flynt, the pornographer, and his crack team of snoops were going to blast the lid off the hypocritical Republican Congress that was trying to impeach a president over sex, etc. Flynt offered up to $1 million in reward money. Yet here one of Flynt’s juiciest potential targets was cheating, and Flynt didn’t blow his cover.

Did Flynt fail to find out about Gingrich and Bisek? No, according to Allan MacDonell, executive editor of Flynt’s Hustler magazine. MacDonell told kausfiles that “we had some information” on Gingrich–indeed, Hustler had compiled a “good dossier” on the speaker before he resigned his office after the Nov. 1998 elections. Did that dossier include the Bisek matter? “Yes.” So why didn’t Flynt expose the affair? “We were holding back.” Why hold back? MacDonell said that Bisek was a “private” citizen, which caused some concern, but also that Hustler “wanted to see what Gingrich was going to do next as far as his career was concerned.”

Hmmm. In early 1999, while the Clinton impeachment was pending before the Senate, Republicans charged that Flynt was blackmailing anti-Clinton congressmen. This came after Flynt’s investigator, Dan Moldea, told the Washington Times, “We have a lot of these guys, dead bang, and the evidence is clear. But they haven’t been going on TV, or on the floor of Congress, shooting their mouths off, trying to take the moral high ground against Clinton. And as a consequence, we’re throwing it back in the river.” If a Republican “hasn’t been shooting his mouth off,” Moldea said, “we let him go.”

And, come to think of it, Gingrich was kind of uncharacteristically quiet during the impeachment mess, wasn’t he? …

Did Gingrich know Flynt had the goods on him? “We never contacted him,” says MacDonell, though he concedes Gingrich “could have known.” MacDonell says Hustler’s concern was getting maximum publicity and sales for Hustler, not necessarily making Gingrich behave. “We were going to wait until the disclosure would do us the most benefit.” If Gingrich had come out in a high-profile way and denounced Clinton’s sexual immorality, would Flynt have dropped the bomb then? “That was kind of our idea.” What if Newt hadn’t resigned after his 1998 election losses, and instead had resolved to seek another term as House speaker–would Flynt then have tried to bring him down? “Not necessarily,” says MacDonell. “We weren’t that concerned with bringing down anybody. We wanted to do the most for [ourselves].”

So was Gingrich effectively (if not illegally) blackmailed? You, the reader, be the judge! I tend to believe MacDonell’s claim of pure, publicity-seeking self-interest. But that doesn’t mean Gingrich’s behavior wasn’t affected by knowledge that Flynt, or someone like him, knew about Bisek and might blow the whistle. Intentionally or not, Flynt served Clinton well.

Flynt would probably agree. Last spring, after Clinton’s impeachment trial was over–and months after Gingrich resigned–he finally published his long-awaited (and disappointing) Flynt Report. It did allude to the Bisek matter, saying: “Rumors of an ongoing affair between the remarried Newt Gingrich and a female staff member of then-Congressman Steve Gunderson (R-Wisconsin)* reached HUSTLER from more than one inside source. Maybe this whiff of fresh scandal was the deciding factor in Newt’s abrupt withdrawal from the mud fight.” And, Flynt might have added, in determining Newt’s fighting style during the previous months.

Gingrich’s press spokesman, Michael Shields, declined to comment on this story when contacted by kausfiles.

* In 1993, when her romance with the speaker apparently began, Bisek was an aide to Gunderson.