The Genuine Article?
By Howard Kurtz
Working with Clinton's Arkansas enemies, "I conspired to damage you and your presidency," Brock writes in an open letter to Clinton in the April issue of Esquire. His justification for the article was a "charade," he says. "I wanted to pop you right between the eyes."
It was Brock's "Troopergate" article in American Spectator, filled with allegations of womanizing, that triggered the chain reaction that led to the Monica Lewinsky investigation. The December 1993 piece, based on the account of four Arkansas troopers, mentioned a woman named "Paula" who, it was said, had expressed her willingness to be the governor's girlfriend. That prompted Paula Jones to file her lawsuit against Clinton. And it was in a deposition in the Jones case that Clinton denied having sex with Lewinsky, sparking the current allegations of perjury.
Brock, who was dropped by the Spectator last fall, has been dumping on his former allies in the conservative movement since they trashed his 1996 biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton. A self-described "pariah," he 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. Last summer, Brock posed for Esquire shirtless and tied to a tree, saying among other things that some of his former conservative pals have turned on him because he is gay.
This approach has yielded a publicity bonanza; he'll be discussing his latest Esquire piece this morning on "Today."
"There's no career purpose in distancing myself from my former work," Brock said in an interview yesterday. "In some ways it just raises more questions. People should just read the article and make their own judgments about my sincerity."
In the original Spectator piece, Brock, who was put in touch with the troopers by Clinton archenemy Cliff Jackson, reported their charges that the governor had used them to arrange liaisons with various women. The Los Angeles Times reported the same allegations, but without some of the highly personal innuendo about both of the Clintons in Brock's 11,000-word manifesto.
Brock now admits in Esquire that the troopers, by aligning themselves with anti-Clinton wackos, "have greatly damaged their credibility," and wonders whether "they took me for a ride." He says the troopers, then seeking a book contract, "were greedy and had slimy motives," and in particular had "palpable contempt for Hillary."
"I'm not saying they made the whole thing up," Brock said yesterday. "I do think there was probably room there for them to exaggerate."
In retrospect, he said, he should have "been much more skeptical of what I was reporting. Because of the ideological desire to damage Clinton, there was a certain willingness to believe all of it."
As for using the name "Paula" to describe a woman that one trooper said he brought to Clinton's Little Rock hotel room in 1991, Brock said he never imagined that she could be identified. "I should have removed the name," he writes. "It was just an oversight."
Brock has always described himself as a conservative who labors under the strictest journalistic standards. Perhaps his most damaging admission is that, as his worst critics charged, his work was politically motivated.
In describing "my ransacking of your personal life," Brock tells Clinton in Esquire, "there was an open political agenda at work as well, which must have colored my judgment at least at the margins. . . . I did regard you, the first Democratic president in my adult life, as an ideological threat."
Brock also pleads guilty to "hypocrisy" for having argued, in his book about Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, that "sexual witch-hunts" should not be used for partisan advantage, only to leap into the very same bog himself.
But that, Brock said yesterday, is history. "I've abandoned that form of journalism," he said.
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