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Confessions of a Hit Man for the Right

David Brock, whose article sparked Paula Jones' suit, has second thoughts.

June 16, 1997|LARS-ERIK NELSON | Lars-Erik Nelson is a syndicated columnist in Washington

The Paula Jones lawsuit against President Clinton, the tales that Clinton used Arkansas state troopers to procure sex, the rumor that the president sneaks out of the White House at night for secret sexual trysts all derive from the work of one man, conservative writer David Brock.

With his lurid stories, Brock has been the source of more glee for conservatives, more fodder for radio talk shows and barroom jokes--and more heartache for the first family--than anyone in America.

And now Brock has had a crisis of conscience. He calls himself a right-wing hit man, accuses top conservatives, by name, of being more interested in anti-Clinton propaganda than in the truth and says he regrets having been associated with the conservative movement.

Brock's rueful reflections in July's Esquire may be the most sensational public confession since Ronald Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, revealed his doubts about supply-side economics.

You have to understand who Brock is: It was his article in the American Spectator that mentioned Clinton and an unidentified "Paula" that prompted Jones to sue the president for sex harassment. It was Brock who quoted Arkansas troopers as saying they routinely pimped for their governor. Brock was the unwitting source for the most sensational charge in FBI agent Gary Aldrich's book, "Unlimited Access": that Clinton drove out of the White House for a sexual rendezvous at a nearby hotel.

Brock's Esquire article is at least as spectacular. He accuses conservatives of intolerance and bigotry, charges that some conservatives have "come to so revile Hillary Clinton and everything she represents that they have lost their moorings" and says conservative leaders like Newt Gingrich run a "neo-Stalinist thought police" to stamp out ideological heresies.

What turned Brock against his allies and financial backers was their hostility to his book, "The Seduction of Hillary Clinton," which was unexpectedly sympathetic to the first lady: She isn't a lesbian; she only made $20 a month off her Whitewater law business.

Right-wingers didn't want to hear that, Brock says. "They wanted red meat, not a serious biography."

Brock was further disillusioned when he saw fellow conservatives touting the Aldrich book even though its charges were probably false. And he finally broke with them when right-wingers used his homosexuality to discredit him.

"I found out that my side is pretty bigoted," he said over the phone Thursday. He retaliates by charging that there is a "secret society" of homosexuals in high-level posts at the Republican National Committee and on the staffs of conservative congressmen and think tanks.

Brock is trying to retain conservative beliefs and his self-respect. He has publicly repudiated Aldrich for printing the Clinton rendezvous rumor as fact. But Brock says he still stands by his reporting about "Paula" and the Arkansas troopers--with one exception. Despite his belief that the story is true, "If the troopers came to me today with that same story, I'm not sure I would do it," he said. "I've had second thoughts."

What bothers Brock is that his reporting has seduced conservatives into pointless personal hatred of the Clintons, rather than focusing on principled argument against their policies.

But where does he go now? Most of the conservative outlets that trumpeted Brock's charges--the American Spectator, the New York Post, the Weekly Standard, the Washington Times--are money losers subsidized by their conservative owners because they print ideologically reliable propaganda for the conservative cause.

Brock just quit that team.

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