I guess they didn’t read Playboy for the articles like they say they did.   If they did, it was somehow completely lost on them Hugh Hefner stood with progressive causes editorially and personally his whole adult life.

If you Google “Hugh Hefner objectify,” you get a slew of of attack pieces that dealt with the cornerstone of his brand, naked women. Outlets from the Washington Examiner to the Los Angeles Times to Fox News all hit Hefner hard for Playboy‘s legacy of T&A.  That’s a fair rap on a magazine that didn’t abandon nudity until he was well into his 80s and effectively finished at the helm.  His daughter ran the publication for a time and pulled the nudes, not his son runs it and the nudes are back.

But Hefner’s relationship with progressives was, as they say, complicated.  Did progressives look the other way because Hefner also championed their causes?  Generations of Kennedys and Clintons proved top progressives got a lot of slack in the debauchery department. Now that Hugh Hefner’s gone, it’s easier for progressives to back away with him.  A movie critical of Ted Kennedy’s conduct at Chappaquiddick took almost ten years after his death to materialize.

If you look hard enough, you can find a few brave progressive outlets who talk about Hefner’s contributions to the cause, and damn the objectification.

The Washington Post said Hefner hurt men and hurt women, but also lauded his contribution to gay rights.

Hugh Hefner, who died this week at 91, claimed to be a liberator of American sexuality. You’ve probably heard about Hefner’s limited approaches to women: They could be frisky girls next door who, until competitive pressure from Penthouse in the 70s, were never shown in centerfolds to have pubic hair. Bunnies were told, as an undercover Gloria Steinem was, “We don’t like our girls to have any background. We just want you to fit the bunny image.” Or they could be uptight prudes, feminists whom Hefner once described as “our natural enemy.” Ladies, take your pick!

But for all the assumptions that Hef’s life was every man’s fantasy, he also shortchanged men. He told them the best way to be a man was to implicitly treat women as the enemy, as products to consume. It is a grim, banal, consumerist way of life that, in practice, would deny men the pleasures of being partners to women, sexually or otherwise.


The year was 1955, and science fiction author Charles Beaumont had, by most accounts, crossed the line with his latest short story.

“The Crooked Man” depicted a dystopian future where homosexuality was the norm, heterosexuality was outlawed and angry anti-straight mobs marched through the street chanting “make our city clean again!” Even the relatively progressive Esquire magazine had rejected the piece because it was too controversial.

But Beaumont found a fan in a young Hugh Hefner, who agreed to run it in his Playboy magazine, then less than two years old.

Complex.com cites evidence that Hefner was progressive through and through.

Alex Haley, the famed author who penned The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots, was the first person to have an interview published in Playboy (which was with Miles Davis in the September 1962 issue). He spoke with Muhammad Ali about his name change, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Jim Brown, but one of his greatest interviews was with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Their conversations took place not too long after King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and ran in Playboy the following year as the longest interview King granted ever.

Haley’s interview with Malcolm X was equally epic. The aforementioned book The Autobiography of Malcom X was born through these conversations Haley had with the then-face of the Muslim movement in America, but the key to Haley’s piece with Malcolm in Playboy was how it captured Malcolm at his height of, well, scaring the fuck out of White America.

As the Playboy enterprise turned into Playboy Enterprises, Hefner started opening up a number of Playboy Clubs across the country. In 1961, Hefner found out that two of his clubs (in Miami and New Orleans) were denying African American memberships and not hiring Bunnies of color. He took swift action and bought the two franchises back, letting the world know that Playboy wasn’t having that.

Legendary comedian Dick Gregory (who himself passed away this past August), who kept it 100 during the Civil Rights era and ended up successfully becoming the first black comedian to cross over to white audiences, credited Hefner with giving him his first break in the comedy world.

While Playboy had featured African American women inside its magazine before (Jennifer Jackson was the first, in their March 1965 issue), it wasn’t until October 1971, nearly 18 years since they began, that Darine Stern graced the cover of Playboy, becoming the first African American woman to do so. It was a huge statement, especially when you consider that it wasn’t until nearly 25 years later that Sports Illustrated gave a black woman (Tyra Banks) the opportunity to grace one of their covers.

He was a Democrat party donor, and most recently backed Barack Obama. He was considered an asset to the Hollywood eft, donating $27,000 as a symbolic purchase of a new “Y” for a new Hollywood sign in 1978.  He supported USC’s film school, donated to endangered species causes, said that gay marriage was “a fight for our rights.”  He later regretted a Playboy cover featuring Donald Trump in 1990, calling it “a personal embarrassment.”

Nobody rewrites history like progressives.  Ask anyone who lives in the vicinity of a Civil War or Founding Fathers statue.  For a guy like Hugh Hefner, it wasn’t good enough that he gave at the office for every progressive cause under the sun. After his passing, he no longer is a fit for the progressive narrative of the moment.  But he’s all yours, progressives.  You need to own Hugh Hefner in his hereafter on earth.