David Brock is a media watch-dog. Brock was a prominent conservative journalist of the 1990s, but in 1998 he rejected it and embraced liberalism and now works to dismantle the conservative media "machine" of which he was once a part. He tells his personal story in his memoir Blinded by the Right and describes how it operates in The Republican Noise Machine. His work on the latter book led him to found Media Matters for America, a non-profit and self-described "progressive" organization dedicated to systematically debunking conservative misinformation on the Internet and television.
Brock began leaning to the right as a reporter and editor for a student newspaper at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from college, in 1985 Brock was an intern at the Wall Street Journal, then in 1986 he joined the staff of the weekly conservative news magazine Insight, a sister publication of the Washington Times. After a stint as a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, in March 1992 Brock authored a sharply critical story about Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill in the American Spectator magazine, in which he said Hill might be "a bit nutty and a bit slutty." A little over a year later, in April 1993 Brock published a book titled The Real Anita Hill which expanded on his allegations while casting them in a more neutral light. The book became a best-seller.
In the January 1994 issue of The American Spectator, Brock, by then on staff at the magazine, published a story about Bill Clinton's time as governor of Arkansas that made accusations that bred "Troopergate". Among other things, the story contained the first printed reference to Paula Jones, referring to a woman named "Paula" who offered to be Clinton's girlfriend. Jones called Brock's account of her encounter with Clinton "totally wrong," and she later sued Clinton for sexual harassment, a case which became entangled in the Independent Counsel's investigation of Whitewater scandal and eventually led to impeachment charges against the president. The story received an award later that year from the Western Journalism Center, and was partially responsible for a meteoric rise in the 25-year-old magazine's circulation, from around 70,000 to over 300,000 in a very short period.
Three years later, Brock surprised conservatives by publishing a somewhat sympathetic biography of Hillary Clinton, titled The Seduction of Hillary Rodham. Having received a $1 million dollar advance and a tight one-year deadline from Simon & Schuster's conservative-focused Free Press subsidiary, Brock was under tremendous pressure to produce another best-seller. However, the book contained no major scoops because supporters of the Clintons would not cooperate with Brock and his team of young researchers. Disappointed by poor sales, Brock later claimed that his former friends in right-wing politics shunned him because he had been unable to substantiate rumors of affairs by President Clinton while in office, or that Hillary Clinton was a lesbian. He also argued that his "friends" had not really been friends at all, due to the open secret that Brock was gay.
In July 1997, Brock published a confessional piece in Esquire magazine titled "I Was a Conservative Hit Man," in which he recanted much of what he said in his two best-known Spectator articles, as well as criticized his own reporting methods. Discouraged at the reaction his Hillary Clinton biography received, he said, "I... want out. David Brock the Road Warrior of the Right is dead." Four months later, The American Spectator failed to renew his employment contract, under which he was being paid over $300,000 per year.
Writing again for Esquire in April 1998, Brock apologized to the Clintons for his contributions to "Troopergate", calling it simply part of an anti-Clinton crusade. He told a more detailed story of his time inside the right wing in his 2001 memoir, Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, in which he settled old scores and provided inside details about the Arkansas Project's efforts to bring down Clinton. Later, he also apologized to Anita Hill.
He went further in his 2004 book, The Republican Noise Machine, detailing the massive, interconnected, concerted effort to raise the profile of conservative opinions in the press through false accusations of liberal media bias, dishonest and highly-partisan columnists, partisan news organizations and academic studies, and other methods.
He also founded Media Matters for America (MMFA), an Internet-based progressive political organization "dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." MMFA employees have previously worked for the presidential campaigns of Democrats Al Gore, Sen. John Edwards, and Gen. Wesley Clark, the National Organization for Women, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the Alliance for Justice, and Greenpeace.
A large number of conservative commentators have attacked Brock's veracity since his "transformation": their common opinion is that Brock has often lied in the past, regardless of his professed political motivations, even when he is admitting his past errors.
- Media Matters for America - Brock's current progressive media watch-dog organization.
- The American Spectator - Brock's former conservative employer
- This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "David Brock"
- David Brock, "The Real Anita Hill," The American Spectator (March 1992) (unofficial site)
- David Brock, "His Cheatin’ Heart," The American Spectator (January 1994)
- Ramesh Ponnuru, "The Real David Brock," National Review (May 10, 2001)
- David Brock Interview, "All Things Considered," National Public Radio (July 2, 2001)
- Hendrik Hertzberg, "Can you forgive him? A right-wing conspirator comes clean," New Yorker (March 11, 2002)
- Bruce Bawer, "Turn, Turn, Turn" Washington Post (March 17, 2002)
- Timothy Noah "David Brock, Liar: A lifelong habit proves hard to break," Slate (March 27, 2002)
- Christopher Hitchens, "The Real David Brock," Slate (May 9, 2002)
- David Horowitz, "Believe David Brock at your own risk," Salon (April 17, 2002)
- "Brock, Horowitz and the anti-gay slur." Chad Conway responds to David Horowitz.
- Laura Kipnis, "Brock Attack: The formerly right-wing shark behind Media Matters," Slate (May 18, 2004)