Author & Reporter
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2002; 3 p.m. EST
From the time he arrived in Washington in 1986, David Brock sought refuge in the bosom of the conservative movement. Smart, ambitious and tightly wound, he struggled to balance his life as a closeted gay man with the friendships of political and media warriors -- some of whom, he says, would make anti-gay remarks.
When his career imploded and the right abandoned him, Brock lost more than his professional footing. The social life he had constructed for himself unraveled
In his new book, "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative," Brock writes about his seduction and eventual excommunication by the conservative movement.
Brock was online to discuss his book, his career and today's Washington Post article Right and Wrong (Post, Feb. 26, 2002).
A transcript follows.
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I'm a big believer that the "vast right wing conspiracy" is a lame defense used by Hillary Clinton and her left wing, liberal friends to excuse the deplorable behavior of her husband. Do you have any "inside" info on this supposed "conspiracy?"
David Brock: Hillary Clinton was right that there was well-organized, heavily financed right-wing conspiracy that was determined to drive Clinton from office. In the book, I write quite a bit about how the conspiracy worked from the inside, because I was recruited into it by a financier of Newt Gingrich's GOPAC during the 1992 presidential campaign. The conspiracy came to center on the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit; her key legal adviser admitted to me in a private conversation that he did not believe Jones but wanted to use her allegations as a way of setting a perjury trap for Clinton. I think if you read the book you'll see that the right-wing conspiracy is laid out in such detail that it is hard to deny.
Dupont, Washington, D.C.:
The word in the glbt community is that you were "pushed" out of the right when they found out you were gay -- not really a change in philosophy at all as much as the end of a marriage of convenience. If you hadn't been "outed," wouldn't you still be there?
David Brock: Actually, the conservatives found out that I was gay when I outed myself in the Washington Post in early 1994 just after publishing the Troopergate article. There were no negative repercussions for my career in the right-wing; in fact, many prominent conservatives came to my defense. They were willing to tolerate the fact that I was gay because I was forwarding their agenda. Only when I deviated ideologically later in 1996, as I was breaking with them politically, did I begin to hear anti-gay remarks that must have reflected their true sentiments all along.
Admittedly, there are undoubtably "excesses" on the conservative side of politics. But isn't the liberal side just as bad? Why favor one over the other? They are both pretty scummy.
David Brock: My book is about more than the excesses of politics as usual. The campaign of character assassination waged by the right was a singular, unprecedented effort. Nothing like it exists on the left. What I object to on the right is the obsessive hatred, the bigotry, and the personal savaging of their opponents, all achieved through an echo chamber of talk radio, the internet & Rupert Murdoch's media outlets. That kind of well-funded disinformation campaign has no analog on the left.
What is your opinion of Ann Coulter?
David Brock: Ann is an illustration of how a certain kind of virulent right-wing politics is based on emotion, not reason. Almost to a one, I found that the most hateful voices on the right were venting their own deep-seated problems and frustrations.
Interesting topic. According to the article, you made quite a bit of money from your previous right-wing work, which you've now repudiated. Do you have any plans to atone for profiting from your previous falsehoods? It's not like you can give the money back, but I can't see another book as the answer, since -- and I make a good living as a writer, so I'm sympathetic -- the new book is both a way of publicly recanting your former position and making more royalties.
I hope you take this, as I'm really interested in the answer.
David Brock: Well, since I am a writer, and I found myself in the middle of an amazing story, I don't know how else I could tell it without writing it down in book form. If this was about making money, I would have stayed in the right-wing & given them the hatchet job book they wanted on Hillary Clinton. I anticipate giving as much of the royalties on this current book as I can to charities or causes that reflect my beliefs and values.
You say now you were lying then. How do we know you're not lying now?
David Brock: My book is truthful and I think that any fair-minded reader will reach that conclusion. But I acknowledge that it is a difficult issue. I had two choices. One was to keep quiet about the problems in my past work and move on. The other was to admit what I did & correct the record. I think the second path is the more credible.
I'm still intrigued by what motivated Paula Jones. Was it politics, money, or sincerity?
From your vantage point, do you think she was sincere in her allegations?
David Brock: I can't really speak to Paula Jones' motivations, but I document in the book exactly how she was manipulated by conservative advisers into suing Clinton. So the case was politically motivated. As to the merits of her allegations, I think the court that threw out her case was definitive.
I understand that you have stated an apology to him, but in your view, what, specifically, in your reporting on former President Clinton still stands as being true and what do you believe stands as not being true?
David Brock: I can't stand by the piece that I apologized for, Troopergate, as being accurate. The troopers were later paid off for having talked to me and two of them recanted what they told me when put under oath in the Jones case. Your question prompts me to raise a wider point: It is not only my own writing on Clinton that was deeply flawed. Much of what the right put out about Clinton in the 90s was flatly untrue. The Spectator published fabrications under several by lines, not just mine. There are a lot of people who owe apologies and need to come clean.
I just wanted to say "Thank You." I myself once used to be a tool of the evil right wing (not that the left is much better). I am happy to see that there are others who finally decided enough is enough. Thank you David, don't let anyone bring you down. You courage is an example for others.
David Brock: Thanks for your encouragement. I wonder how many other ex-conservatives there are out there?
"Nothing like it exists on the left?" Come now, Mr. Brock, I think the late John Tower would disagree with you quite a bit as would Bob Packwood. Do not attribute the motives of those who opposed Bill Clinton as being motivated by hatred, bigotry, etc. That is the usual canard hoisted by the PC police of the left when they want to discredit their opponents without resorting to serious argument. I could have cared less what Clinton did in his private life but when one is sworn in court to tell the truth one must do so regardless of what one thinks are the merits of the suit.
David Brock: John Tower was brought down by Paul Weyrich, a leader of the New Right & a pioneer in the sexual McCarthyism of the right. Packwood, of course, was undone by his own actions, which were exposed in the mainstream press. I lived among the Clinton-haters for years, and I can assure you that my portrait of them is not a canard. The major Clinton-haters in Arkansas were segregationists & hated Clinton for his progressive record on race.
I haven't noticed the LA Times publishing any retractions to their story on Troopergate which closely followed yours. And how would you characterize Christopher Hitchens -- another right-wing hit man? As to the allegation that the left has no similar "attack" structure, exactly what was Sid Blumenthal's job in the White House except as to function in exactly that role?
David Brock: Most journalists never admit they were wrong. The Los Angeles Times made many of the mistakes that I did.
I don't know what Sidney's job was at the White House, but if it involved disseminating the truth about the right-wing's operations, I don't think that is the kind of "attack structure" I'm referring to. The "attack structure" of the right has no regard for the truth of an allegation so long as it is politically useful.
As for Hitchens, I have a section on him in the book that is too long to summarize here.
David -- My personal background is much like yours in that I was adopted, long-closeted, and drawn at one time to the homophobic ideology of the right-wing political movement. Do you think your involvement with the right was in some way an effort to deny or repress your homosexuality, or perhaps to "atone" for it? Good luck with the book -- I'll have to read it soon.
David Brock: Yes, in my own personal experience as well as those of others I knew, one of the things that drove my extremism was as compensation for the fact that I was gay in a movement that was hostile to gays. I was openly gay in college then reverted to the closet as I rose through conservative ranks. At a certain point, I even began to resent being gay because I saw it as an impediment to career success on the right. That anger came through in my work I'm afraid.
Why did you do it? I couldn't complete a piece if I knew I was lying. Certainly not if I had to put my name on it.
David Brock: Most of my work I did from conviction as I was doing it and only later realized how flawed it was. The one conscious lie I told in print was in a review I wrote of Jill Abramson's and Jane Mayer's about the Thomas-Hill hearings called "Strange Justice." They reported on Thomas's penchant for pornography. Even though I knew this was true, I covered it up in the review to protect Thomas, and the conservative cause. Also, I was so wrapped up in my identity as Thomas's chief defender doing anything else (such as revealing the truth about him) would have caused me to come apart.
College Park, Md.:
I have yet to read your book, but at least from the article today and from various reports of your exploits over the years, a few obvious questions leap out:
- Assuming we are all works-in-progress, how do you feel about where you are in your evolution as a person, and how much have you been able to integrate facets of your personality -- intellectual, political, spiritual, sexual, etc. -- that were previously compartmentalized?
- What have you learned about yourself in terms of your morals and ambitions? (i.e. what price is too high to get what you want?)
- What do you ultimately hope to accomplish as a person? (And I'm not speaking professionally, I'm speaking in terms of the sum total of your being.)
P.S. I wish you peace and happiness (finally)!
David Brock: I think I'm running out of time here so I'll give a brief answer to a long & very thoughtful question. It's only since coming out of the right wing that I've been able to see beyond partisan politics and careerism to what's really important in life. I was living in a mutual use society and as a result never learned what true friendship is, or how to give rather than take. As you say, self-discovery is something that happens every day if we are open to it. With the blinders off and the anger gone, now I am. As for future accomplishments, I've struggled for a long time to find a complete sense of self and to find my values. If I can live them every day, I'll be happy.
David Brock: There were so many great questions I went several minutes over my time limit. Thanks to everyone for participating.
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