Back in another millennium, when radical left-wing blog queen Arianna Huffington was still a “conservative columnist” and wearing dowdy Republican elephant broaches, I was employed as her researcher. From 1997 to 1999, I worked with Arianna on her twice-weekly column, her books and speeches. I am forever grateful for that trial-by-fire experience, as well as for exposing me to so many of the characters that dominate the political scene fifteen years later.
One of those individuals I was able to meet was David Brock, former reporter for the American Spectator, who famously switched from the right to the left and who claimed that the basis for his best-known work was his own manufactured lies. This story –Brock’s apostasy — became the basis of a famous Esquire feature and a book, Blinded By the Right. The central thesis of that book was that when Brock’s Hillary Clinton biography, The Seduction of Hillary Clinton, didn’t deliver the goods, not only did the lucrative book contracts go away, but so did the right-wing friendships.
Cut to Arianna Huffington’s dining room. Christmas brunch, 1997.
Six months after penning the high-profile Esquire piece that featured him in all his narcissistic homoerotic glory, shirtless and tied to a tree, at least one right-wing friend certainly didn’t reject him for the failure of the Hillary book, or his rebellion against the political right. And that person was the hostess of the Christmas brunch that I attended and at which I sat next to him.
In addition, Laura Ingraham was still his friend, as was Richard Grenell. I’m not sure about life in Washington, but Brock most certainly exaggerated the wholesale cutting off of friendship over a book not doing as well as its publisher had hoped.
In the first meeting, David Brock was twitchy and antisocial. Something was clearly not right with this guy. He was crafting a picture-perfect Sidney Blumenthal-enhanced meta-narrative of a villainous vast right wing conspiracy that comported with the concurrent White House strategy led by Mr. Blumenthal to paint the right wing as a shady cabal. Mr. Blumenthal served as Brock’s key messaging guru and entre into the same, more lucrative waters, that Arianna herself would soon, opportunistically jump into.
Back to the brunch. Then-right-winger Arianna Huffington provided Christmas brunch for David Brock in Los Angeles, away from his Washington D.C. base. I think that would constitute friendship, despite the back-narrative of right-wing treachery over Brock’s transformation.
If friendship and loyalty were of value to David Brock, explain to me why within the year, Brock, who has described his previous incarnation as an “assassin,” would take aim at hurting his Christmas brunch hostess friend with the most cruel and humiliating of public assassinations.
Cut to Arianna’s office, a Sunday afternoon, 1998.
Working Sundays was part of working with Arianna. She’s a workaholic. On this particular Sunday, she called me over the intercom and asked me to come down to her office, where she asked me to sit in front of her. “That was Howard Kurtz,” she said as she looked me straight in the eyes. Then she broke down crying.
I had never seen Arianna emotional before. She was like iron to me. She asked me to go to the fax machine to pick up the article that the Washington Post’s then-media reporter had faxed to her. It seems David Brock, the man who cherished friendship and rebelled against the right for not valuing friendship as he had wished, conspired with Arianna’s ex-husband, Michael Huffington, the former Congressman and failed Senatorial candidate, to write a definitive “outing” piece that would expose the ruse of the relationship between the son of wealthy Texas oilmen and the intellect and social butterfly Arianna Stassinoupolos.
Arianna was devastated. Furthermore, Arianna told me that Brock and Michael Huffington agreed that the article would be written without Arianna’s foreknowledge, making it the bombshell that it was when Howard Kurtz broke the news that Sunday afternoon, the day before everyone in Washington and Los Angeles would know the reality behind the famous marriage.
This Brock negotiation, which hit his previous Christmas brunch hostess upside the head like a 2×4, granted the mother of two young girls less than 24 hours to figure out a game plan how to explain to two pre-adolescent kids that their father is gay.
No one I know on the right perceived David Brock as a serious loss. His short term value to the cause – The American Spectatorarticles – was certainly not enough to put him in the higher tier of the institutional right. But Brock is a mover and a shaker, and an opportunist of the highest order, and found the right people and the right open wallets to milk his overblown apostasy for all its worth.
Ironically, David Brock’s Media Matters for America was created at about the same time and for the same purposes as the Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington, too, came to see the light – the light that the institutional left pays its assassins and its apostates a hell of a lot better. The Huffington Post has granted Media Matters carte blanche to post its special brand of David Brock career-enhancing blindly self-motivated political assassinations.
Even though Arianna apparently now looks the other way at Brock’s egregious friendship breach that put her in an unimaginable parental quandary, I cannot forget that in the midst of a self-righteous “woe is me” media tour, David Brock was continuing to be the treacherous monster from the past he was trying to escape.