It could be argued that without David Brock (born 1963), the Clinton impeachment trial may not have happened. In his January 1994 "Troopergate" article, Brock inadvertently left the name "Paula" within the text, which spurred Paula Jones to sue President Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. The ensuing depositions introduced Monica, and the impeachment trial soon followed. A conservative journalist, Brock developed a reputation for exposé-style writing. However in 1997, he was fired by the right-wing journal, the American Spectator. Some argue he has since become more liberal than conservative, going as far as apologizing to President Clinton for his use of "sexual witch-hunts" for partisan advantage. Whether simply a seeker of the limelight or a reputable mainstream journalist, David Brock has made his mark on the Clinton administration.
"McCarthyism of the Left"
Born in 1963 and raised in the New Jersey suburbs, Brock is the son of a marketing executive. Brock attended the University of California at Berkeley. He chose Berkeley "for all the reasons one would go there," which according to James Atlas of the New York Time Magazine include "drugs, sex, rock-and-roll." Being a liberal environment, it wasn't surprising that Brock had seen conservative speakers like Caspar Weinberger and Jeane Kirkpatrick shouted down by the student body. But according to Atlas, it wasn't long before Brock himself got shouted down. As an editor for the Daily Californian, the Berkeley campus paper, he wrote a piece endorsing the Granada invasion which caused outrage among some of his peers. "I thought it was McCarthyism of the left," said Brock. "I thought it was extremely intolerant."
After graduation, Brock sent some of his work to John Podhoretz, who was then editing Insight, the Sunday magazine of the Washington Times. He worked there for a time, and did a stint at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank established in 1972 to advance proposals for conservative government and economic and social reforms.
The Real Anita Hill
Brock continued to write about politics and Washington issues, and developed a reputation for the conservative exposé. He was hired on at the American Spectator, where he wrote a piece questioning the credibility of Anita Hill, the woman who testified at the Senate confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
Atlas reported that Erwin Glikes, then president of the publisher, Free Press, read his piece about Anita Hill and signed him up to do a book. The Real Anita Hill, edited by Glike's protégé , Adam Bellow, was on the best-seller list for 14 weeks.The book met with mixed reviews. While heralded by many on the right, it was attacked in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, whose own book, was highly critical of Clarence Thomas.
Paula Dwyer stated in Business Week that Brock had "been reviled by professional women ever since writing the`Real Anita Hill' for making into a harlot the law professor who charged then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment."
But Brock seemed to thrive on controversy, and continued to seek out more and more opportunities to purport not only his journalistic abilities, but his highly partisan assertions as well. There seemed no lack of eager publishers.
TheAmerican Spectator carried the first story about then-Governor Bill Clinton's extra-marital trysts based on allegations by Arkansas state troopers. "Troopergate," as the article was dubbed, mentioned Paula Jones by first name, publicly identifying her, and prompting her to file sexual harassment charges against Clinton. Frank Pelligrini, writing for Time, reported that Chicago investment banker Peter Smith paid two Arkansas state troopers and Brock to break the story. Smith then put Brock in touch with Cliff Jackson, a longtime Clinton critic in Arkansas who steered him to the troopers he eventually interviewed.
The White House had long asserted that "Troopergate" was stirred up by Clinton's enemies who wanted him removed from office. Pellegrini reported that Smith told the Chicago Sun-Times he "wasn't part of any right-wing conspiracy - he just wanted to get George Bush re-elected. A conservative fund-raiser and heavy contributor to Newt Gingrich's think tank, GOPAC, Smith maintains that the 1992 payouts were 'an independent effort to have the untold story told by the mainstream press.'"
The Seduction of Hillary Rodham
Brock's next controversial exposé was on Hillary Rodham Clinton. Many conservatives did not receive Brock's book, "The Seduction of Hillary Rodham," with much acclaim. Using no direct interviews with the First Lady herself, Brock makes an argument for Hillary's victimization at the hands of a great seducer, Bill Clinton. Many expected Brock to humiliate Mrs. Clinton, but the book proved disappointingly unscathing and, in fact, sympathetic of the First Lady.
Washington Post journalist Howard Kurtz asserts that Brock had been "dumping on his former allies in the conservative movement since they trashed his biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton." In July 1997, Brock posed for Esquire without a shirt and tied to a tree, saying among other things that some of his former conservative pals had turned on him because he is gay. Brock had stated that being gay has not impacted his work in any way.
In November of 1997, Brock was fired from the Spectator. According to NewsPlanet, Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. told the media that, "we can't sustain the high salary we were paying him. I haven't gotten a lot of pieces out of him." Brock told the Washington Post that, "When I'm writing what they want, that's fine. But my sense is they were growing uncomfortable with the fact I was trying to do something different with my writing and it no longer serves their interest."
According to Jamie Dettmer, writing for Insight on the News, "Brock concedes blithely that he now believes the Troopergate article ... was 'bad journalism.'" Kurtz notes that Brock, "a self-described 'pariah,' has gone the mea culpa route in trying to shed his old image as right-wing hit man and position himself as a respected mainstream writer." Some would argue however that Brock seems to aspire more to celebrity than to journalistic excellence. "Brock's more famous for what he's done than for who he is," says Time White House correspondent Jay Branegan. Regardless of his stature in the media, Brock had made a mark as the writer who sparked the Clinton scandal.
- Business Week, November 11, 1996.
- Insight on the News, April 6, 1998.
- Newsday, January 20, 1994.
- NewsPlanet, November 18, 1997.
- New York Times Magazine, February 12, 1995.
- Time Daily, March 10, 1998; April 1, 1998.
- Washington Post, March 10, 1998.
- "A Glance: The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story," Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN.
- "Reporter Apologizes For Clinton Sex Article," CNN/ALLPOLITICS, http://cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/03/10/brocks.remorse/.
- "Reviews: The Seduction of Hillary Rodham,"Amazon.com,http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ts/book.
- "Weekly Commentary by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr."American Spectator, http://www.spectator.org/ret/96-10-18.html.