The Corner

Bum Rush: Media Matters Behind the Scenes

The NY Post asked me to write something on Media Matters for their new big Sunday section. Here’s what I came up with. An excerpt:

But what is Media Matters? Well, first of all, it’s the brainchild of David Brock. You may recall that Brock was once a right-wing hatchet man, penning a book, “The Real Anita Hill,” and some articles in the American Spectator on the Clintons that for a time earned him considerable notoriety on the right and hatred on the left. After the success of the Anita Hill book, Brock was given a contract to write a similar exposé on Hillary Clinton, “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.”

The book was a dud. But it had explosive effects on Brock. In the course of working on it, he came out of the closet and gained a crush on Mrs. Clinton at the same time. Some claimed that he became “pro-Hillary” as an excuse to hide his failure at cracking the cone of silence around Clinton. Others believe that his transformation was less mercenary and more principled. Whatever; wading deep into Brock’s psyche requires taller hip boots than are currently available on the market.

For the rest of the 1990s, Brock launched something of a fire sale on his own credibility. In articles and interviews, Brock outed himself as a liar. He confessed to lying in the Anita Hill book, even though the lies he admitted to were peripheral to his exoneration of Justice Clarence Thomas but devastating in what they said about Brock himself; he admitted he’d been a hatchet man and borderline extortionist. In a piece for Esquire – in which he was depicted bound to a tree, nipple exposed – Brock apologized to Bill Clinton and expressed regret over his “Troopergate” stories for the American Spectator. He said they were all true, mind you, but that he shouldn’t have written them.

But the problem was already obvious. As Jill Abramson told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, “the problem with Brock’s credibility” is that “once you admit you’ve knowingly written false things, how do you know when to believe what he writes?” Yet by the end of the Clinton years and the beginning of the Bush administration, Brock had become a darling of the pro-Clinton media establishment as a supposed truth-teller.

And in 2004, Brock decided to start Media Matters for America ostensibly to keep an eye on the sort of “conservative misinformation” he used to peddle.

 

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