Fresh off big-name endorsements from U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, Republican 1st District congressional candidate Mark Sanford collected the endorsement of infamous smut mag publisher Larry Flynt.

Flynt reportedly shopped around a print ad to South Carolina papers this week, including the City Paper, but thus far the ad has yet to appear on newsstands. In a two-minute video cut to announcement his endorsement, Flynt says the move to back Sanford was “not an easy decision,” but says despite the former governor’s “journey down this Appalachian Trail of deceit,” Flynt contends that “no one has done more to expose the sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today.” Flynt said he wrote a check for the maximum allowed amount, $2,600, to Sanford’s campaign, but a spokesperson told Daily Caller the check won’t be accepted.

Talking to press yesterday, Sanford called the endorsement “silly.” “It’s one of those endorsements that’s designed to hurt you… I can say with certainty that it’s not going to help me,” Sanford said, according to Politico. On Tuesday, affair matchmaking website announced a double-billboard along I-26 near Columbia featuring Sanford’s image.

So far, advertising representatives at Bluffton Today, the Myrtle Beach Sun News, and the Columbia Free Times have said that Flynt did not submit an advertisement to them. “We were not approached by Larry Flynt for ad space,” Free Times associate publisher Kerry Powers says in an e-mail. “We, however, reached out to his office and our calls were not returned.” The Hilton Head Island Packet, the Post and Courier, and The State have not said whether Flynt submitted the ad to their sales departments.

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will appear on the ballot with Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch and Green Party candidate Eugene Platt in Tuesday’s 1st Congressional District special election.

UPDATE: Flynt released a statement earlier today, saying, among other things, that the papers who refused his ad — including the City Paper — were acting as censors.

I was surprised and dismayed that a distinguished newspaper like The Post and Courier decided to act as a censor and refused to publish my paid advertisement endorsing Mark Sanford for Congress. I was even more surprised when the publisher of the Charleston City Paper also refused my family friendly advertisement endorsing Mark Sanford. These newspapers’ shameful decisions to act as censors instead of voices of democracy damage their reputations as standard bearers of the First Amendment and freedom of speech. They have both disgraced themselves. I have endorsed Mark Sanford because he is America’s great sex pioneer for exposing the sexual hypocrisy of traditional values. The Post and Courier and Charleston City Paper now stand as the leading examples of hypocrisy in America regarding the First Amendment.

Publisher Noel Mermer stands behind his right to refuse any ad and rejects the idea of it being censorship. “I was approached about running this ad by LFP, Inc. and rejected it on the grounds that I thought it was an inappropriate mockery of our local election,” says Mermer. “I knew it would garner a lot of press, but it wasn’t the kind I wanted us to be associated with.”

Advertising director Blair Barna and editor Stephanie Barna believe the City Paper should’ve taken the ad. “I was so excited when I heard about the ad buy that I was shocked we ended up in a weekend-long argument about whether or not to take the ad,” says Stephanie. “Larry Flynt is a champion of the First Amendment and we should’ve run his ad, regardless of whether or not it made a mockery of the election.”

Reached for comment, South Carolina Press Association Executive Director Bill Rogers noted that newspaper publishers will sometimes reject ads for reasons such as libel, legality, obscenity, community standards, and false information, but retain latitude to decide what ads they publish to their readers. “This is not a First Amendment issue,” Rogers said, “This is a decision by a publisher not to accept an ad that does not meet his or her publication standards.”

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