Even fans of David Brock’s new politics are having a hard time digesting “Blinded by the Right,” his latest piece de scandale. It is a book that attempts to take down former conservative friends and confidantes with the same ferocious zeal and suspect journalistic methods that he deployed on President Clinton and Anita Hill in a former life. But as Frank Rich observed in a New York Times essay, “By his own account, Brock has lied so often that a reader can’t take on faith some of the juicier newsbreaks from the impeachment era in his book.” Actually, for anyone with first-hand knowledge of the targets, it’s not just the juicier newsbreaks that are problematic in Brock’s book. There is virtually nothing believable in what he has written, as I have reason personally to know.
In all the years David Brock was posing as a conservative (which is what he says of himself in this “confession”), I met him only two or three times. The first was before he became notorious over the tattered reputations of Anita Hill and President Clinton, and another came after he had disclosed his homosexuality, but had not yet switched political sides. On both occasions, I believe I was a supportive friend. On the first, as the older writer, I gave advice and encouragement to the young man on the threshold of a journalistic career. On the second, I let him know he could count on the support of a conservative who had always made it a point to stand up for gays within the circles of the right (where such a defense is sometimes necessary) and who condemned anti-gay prejudices wherever he encountered them. (In fact, I have made personal enemies of three very prominent conservatives through my public attacks on their sexual prejudices, and these are the only conservative enemies I believe I have made.)
My publication, Frontpagemagazine.com, is the first conservative Web site that features a regular (daily) column by a gay journalist, Andrew Sullivan. In my estimation, Andrew Sullivan is one of the most intelligent and insightful conservative writers, regardless of sexual preference. At the same time, in “Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality” and “Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival,” Andrew has written two of the most elegant, poignant and wise accounts of homosexuality and AIDS available. Frontpagemagazine.com has also featured gay commentators and reporters like Camille Paglia, Norah Vincent and Ed Anderson, and has run two conservative gay manifestos, one by a gay male who was also a Mormon, and the other by a lesbian Republican.
Therefore, it was something of a shock to me to see the following passage at the conclusion of a chapter titled “Out of the Closet” in “Blinded By the Right.” In this chapter, with all the deceitfulness characteristic of Brock’s work, the author attempts to justify his personal betrayal of former friends (via insinuation and gossip) by their alleged betrayal of him as a gay man:
“Then there was the case of David Horowitz, the neo-conservative firebrand, whose publication had rushed out a piece when I came out of the closet using the occasion to proclaim the conservatives’ tolerance for homosexuality. Soon thereafter, Horowitz uttered a hateful anti-gay slur to an editor friend of mine whom Horowitz didn’t know was gay. At the time, I shrugged it off, not willing to face the truth about my friends and supporters. Not until such epithets were hurled at me would I realize I had been on a fool’s errand in trying to carve out a place for myself as an openly gay icon in the conservative movement. Only then did I begin to see by allowing myself to be used as a kind of gay right-wing poster boy, I had been complicit in the bigoted politics and rank hypocrisy of the conservatives.”
For the record, I am not a “neo-conservative” (unless the label is intended to mean — as it sometimes is — that I am a conservative who is a Jew); my Center for the Study of Popular Culture is not — as Brock maintains in the only other chapter that mentions me in the book — “devoted to promoting conservative values and politics in the entertainment industry” (I am a big fan of “South Park” and have written articles defending it and other films that conservatives have attacked; I have had on-air battles with right-wing religious critics of Hollywood like Michael Medved, and have concentrated my efforts on creating liberal-conservative dialogues and working with the liberal guilds (actors, writers and directors) to defend the entertainment industry against censors from both the left and the right; I have also never been “violent” or “extremist” on either side of the political divide — let alone on both — as Brock maliciously asserts. My book “The Art of Political War” does not, as he claims, recommend to Republicans “the same tactics he had once described as illegitimate and immoral” (i.e., the tactics of the Marxist left — which I have actually never described in those terms); instead, my book recommends that Republicans take a leaf from the populist tactics of the Democratic Party, as even the most casual but minimally honest reader can attest.
In other words, in two short paragraphs Brock manages to misrepresent everything he reports about me, despite the fact that he knew from personal experience (which he suppressed) that his portrait was false, while facts that he may not have known at first hand, such as my actual activities in Hollywood, were readily available on the Web.
Brock, of course, cannot even present himself with any integrity that lasts for more than a sentence. He did not volunteer himself as a conservative gay icon, as he proposes in the paragraph above, but conceded his gayness only after he was threatened with outing by the left — an episode he actually describes a few pages earlier but then ignores. In the same incoherent vein, he first portrays conservatives as callous homophobes and then barely a page later describes their reaction to his outing as one of universal support, without bothering to explain the contradiction.
Actually, he does attempt to explain it by the reference to me. The “real attitude of the conservative movement towards homosexuality,” according to Brock, is what conservatives allegedly say behind his back: scorn and disgust that asserts itself in hurtful anti-gay slurs. Without self-aggrandizement I can say that this is a pivotal revelation in the book, because it is a revelation that ultimately propels Brock from one side of the political barricades to the other, or so he claims.
Yet the only accurate statement in Brock’s account of my “slur” is that I didn’t know for a time that my editor at the Free Press, Chad Conway, was gay. I can speak with certainty to the fact that the editor whom I allegedly hurt was Chad Conway (who is not a political conservative). First, because Chad is the only editor I know who is both gay and a “friend” of David Brock’s. Second, because when Brock and I recently appeared on Warren Olney’s NPR radio show and I confronted him with his lies about this conversation, he did not deny the fact that Chad was the alleged source of the anecdote in his book.
In order to check Chad’s side of the story — all this happened years ago — I called him right before my appearance on the NPR show. Chad had not read Brock’s book, and was unaware that it contained the anecdote in question. In other words, Brock chose to print a hateful, damaging story about me — which contradicted everything he otherwise knew about me from my public and private behavior — without even checking with his source to see if he had heard or remembered the incident correctly. And this is the new, reformed David Brock! When I read Chad the passage, he was as appalled by Brock’s slander as I had been. Chad and I had discussed Brock many times over the years of our friendship, and Chad knew that my views of Brock and his political conversion were entirely free of anti-gay prejudice.
For the record, Chad said: “You have never made an anti-gay slur to me or about David Brock or anyone else; you have never said anything hurtful to me — not about gays or anything else. I have always enjoyed our professional relationship and our friendship, and you have always been supportive of me.”
When I confronted the bestselling defamer on the NPR show with this refutation of his claims, he was not the least apologetic or regretful for what he had done. He neither retracted his slander, nor attempted to defend it. He simply pretended that he had not been confronted with it, and moved on to the next page of his attack.
The perspective from which David Brock views the conservatives who inhabit his book is so relentlessly squalid it inevitably swallows the author himself. At one point, Brock finds himself facing the head of Simon & Schuster, whom he is fleecing for a million-dollar advance by making promises he knows he will not keep. He thinks to himself, “Is this smirking asshole me?” The answer, David, is yes.