Marc Bell, the private-equity mogul who owns Penthouse, thinks the whole Bill-Clinton-posing-with-porn-stars business has gotten out of hand.
"It's unfortunate that a harmless picture has gotten so much play," Bell told ABC News in a phone interview from Monaco on Friday.
Bell was at the Monte Carlo gala, a fundraiser for the Prince Albert Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, where porn actresses Brooklyn Lee and Tasha Reign posed with Clinton in a photo first reported by TMZ. The two actresses attended as Bell's guests.
Lee and Reign told TMZ they had wandered near Clinton in the hopes of meeting him. A Secret Service agent shooed them away, the actresses said, but Clinton told the agent to call them back over.
Bell seemed frustrated with the notion, which he insinuated that media reports have fed, that the photo signified anything untoward. He was not with Lee and Reign when the photo was taken, but he said they had met Clinton earlier in the evening.
"They were just guests at a party," Bell said. "It wasn't done for publicity, it wasn't done for malice, it was done because they thought it was really cool to meet the president."
While Lee and Reign expressed uncertainty and hope to TMZ that Clinton did, in fact, know who they were - or at least that they were porn stars - Bell said that wasn't the case: "He didn't even know who they were. When he met them, he had no idea who they were. They were there not under their stage names. They were there under their real names," Bell said.
"The man had no clue," Bell said. "We met him earlier. It was, 'Hi, how are you, very nice to meet you, it's a pleasure,'" Bell said.
"He made some comments about how Monaco [has] the world's greatest life expectancy … so this is a good place for someone who's older to be," Bell said. "It had nothing to do with anything."
Bell founded and runs Marc Bell Capital, the private-equity firm that owns Penthouse. Bell said the magazine and accompanying clubs, website, etc., accounts for a small part of his firm's portfolio.