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David Brock, the American Spectator reporter best known for exposing the real Anita Hill, has been trying to “find himself” ever since. For awhile, he says in a 5,000-word essay in the July issue of Esquire, he relished the description of “hit man for the right.” Now, he’s posturing as a real journalist — a man of unimpeachable integrity, an honest investigator we should all trust to call ’em the way he sees ’em and, most of all, a victim of blind ideological partisanship from both ends of the political spectrum.
So what’s this really all about? Who is this guy, and why is he getting so much attention?
First of all, Brock deserves all the accolades he received for “The Real Anita Hill,” a devastating portrait of a shallow media icon thrust into national attention by feminists and liberal ideologues who simply couldn’t stand the thought of a distinguished conservative black legal scholar being named to the Supreme Court.
Despite severe criticism for his diligent work and a virtual blackout of any mainstream media attention, Brock’s book became an instant best-seller. He was “outed” as gay by Frank Rich, the liberal columnist for the New York Times. He was shut out of network TV appearances. The establishment reviews were, for the most part, unkind. But, in spite of it all, the book sold — thanks, in large part, to the selfless promotion of it by Rush Limbaugh. Because of the enormous sales, Brock was rewarded by his publisher, the Free Press, with a $1 million contract for his next book, “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.”
Both the Free Press and the author made the mistake of thinking that the name David Brock had contributed to the success of the first book. It had not. It was, first and foremost, the subject matter — material systematically deep-sixed by the establishment press. The general public hungered for such information. And the Anita Hill book proved it. Limbaugh’s own books also illustrated the point, as did Bill Bennett’s “The Book of Virtues.” All four of these books shared one common denominator — Rush had sold them, big-time, on his nationally syndicated radio program reaching 20 million people.
Brock’s book on Hillary, for whatever reason, was a much different kind of work. It was a very conventional biography — containing no startling revelations, nothing particularly new and not particularly critical of a woman deeply resented by the very people who rushed out to buy Brock’s first book. The result was predictable. The book bombed. How badly? So badly that it caused a major personnel shakeup at the Free Press. If there was a window of opportunity opened for “conservative” books by Brock’s first work, Brock helped slam it shut with his second.
But rather than take the rap for writing a boring book that no one wanted to read, Brock prefers to play the martyr. He’s the victim of a conspiracy by the conservative movement, he would have us believe. Now he’s crusading to be drummed out of that movement in hopes it will turn him into a celebrity author whose name is actually capable of selling books.
It’s really kind of sad. Brock is flailing about, criticizing others in hopes of establishing credentials for himself as an honest, thoughtful, investigative reporter. As the person who gave David Brock the only journalistic award he has ever received in his life, I think it’s time for a little reality check.
In “Confessions of a Right-Wing Hit Man,” Brock’s Esquire treatise, he strikes out at a number of people — but none more viciously than Gary Aldrich, the ex-FBI agent who wrote “Unlimited Access,” a best-seller about his experiences guarding the Clintons at the White House.
Brock carries on about one incident described in Aldrich’s book — an allegation that Bill Clinton sneaked out of the White House to a Marriott hotel to meet a woman for a tryst. It is hardly a significant story in Aldrich’s book. And Brock maintains he was the source of the story — that it was nothing more than a rumor Aldrich published with no confirmation or verification.
If that allegation is true, it’s unfortunate. But Aldrich has been pilloried for it by the mainstream press. If Brock got the cold shoulder from the media for his first book, Aldrich was systematically frozen out from meaningful appearances — and the excuse was Brock’s tattle-tale effort to discredit Aldrich on this minor point in his book.
Now, let’s remember this: Aldrich is not a journalist. He doesn’t claim to be. He’s not a reporter. He’s an FBI agent who wrote primarily from his own experiences. He’s a source of information. And that’s how he should be treated. That’s how his work should be viewed. Just because he writes a book doesn’t mean he must answer to conventional journalistic standards.
But David Brock is a journalist, and he is accountable to such standards. That’s why it is so strange to hear Brock challenging Aldrich on the issue of publishing unconfirmed rumors. You see, David Brock is responsible for reporting one of the most sensational, untrue rumors in the history of American politics — one that has resulted in a sexual-harassment suit against the president of the United States and a recent Supreme Court hearing.
I refer, of course, to the Paula Corbin Jones case. How was Brock involved? It was Brock who reported in the January 1993 edition of American Spectator that a woman named “Paula” had visited Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in a Little Rock hotel room and, afterward, offered to “be his regular girlfriend.” Besides the word of an anonymous state trooper, there was and is no reason to believe the encounter between Jones and Clinton bore any resemblance to that description.
It was that report that led directly to Jones’ suit. She wanted her name cleared. She demanded that the truth be told. Frankly, I think she would have been well within her rights to sue David Brock along with Bill Clinton and the trooper.
Yet, has Brock shown any remorse? No. Has he been as tough on himself as he was on Aldrich? No. Has he even used a forum like the Esquire article to explain why he didn’t look for corroboration before smearing Paula Jones’ character? No.
Brock is so busy throwing stones that he hasn’t had time to notice he’s living in a very transparent glass house. If he’s so committed to truth, justice and journalistic integrity, as Brock self-righteously claims to be, he ought to start by owning up to his own mistakes, his own shortcomings.