The news media matters so much to David Brock, he hired an army of petulant liberals to analyze every story, blog post and tweet, and every minute of radio and television, for even the slightest whiff of right wing bias.
He’s so concerned about it, his organization, Media Matters for America, scours the Internet for scandals like this one: “right-wing media have seized on President Obama’s use of the incorrect date when signing the Westminster Abbey guest book to claim that Obama has had ‘too much Guinness’ during his trip.” Those conservatives were probably joking, but still, the outrage!
On one major media development, however, Brock has nothing to say.
Thursday, Jill Abramson was promoted to executive editor at the New York Times, the top position at the newspaper and one of the most important jobs in journalism.
The Daily Caller asked if Brock had any comment. “Unfortunately, he can’t do it. Maybe next time?” Jess Levin of Media Matters wrote via email.
Perhaps part of the explanation for his sudden reluctance to comment is that Brock and Abramson feuded bitterly in the 1990s over the nomination of Clarence Thomas and accusations by Thomas’s former colleague Anita Hill that Thomas sexually harassed her.
Brock famously described Hill as “a bit nutty, and a bit slutty” in the American Spectator and wrote a book, “The Real Anita Hill,” attacking her credibility.
Abramson – with coauthor Jane Mayer – savaged Brock’s reporting in the New Yorker, then wrote a book together, “Strange Justice,” defending Hill.
In response to the New Yorker review, Brock wrote an 8,000 word reply headlined, “Jane and Jill and Anita Hill; At The New Yorker, they don’t know jack.” The piece suggested Abramson and Mayer were attempting to smear a competitor’s book so their own forthcoming book would sell more copies. He also repeatedly challenged Abramson and Mayer to a public debate, which they declined.
Almost two years later, Brock’s 37,388 word rebuttal to “Strange Justice” was published in the American Spectator under the headline “Strange Lies: For the record, the best-selling author of The Real Anita Hill re-reports Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, a bogus new book by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson.”
The review called the book “one of the most outrageous journalistic hoaxes in recent memory.”
Conservatives, led by Brock, also scored some other direct hits on Abramson and Mayer.
The duo were forced to apologize for — and correct in the paperback version of the book — an accusation that Mark Paoletta, then a White House aide, now a partner at Dickstein Shapiro, had broken the federal anti-lobbying act in pushing Thomas’s nomination.
“We apologize if you or others have construed the passage” as saying Paoletta had broken the law, a July 28, 1995 letter from a lawyer of the book’s publisher said, “the authors assure me that they never anticipated this passage could be construed to imply that you had done so.” The book originally claimed Paoletta’s actions “appear to have been in direct violation of the federal anti-lobbying act.”
But after fighting so viciously with Mayer and Abramson, Brock began his 180 degree reversal with a series of magazine articles expressing remorse. In his 2002 book, “Blinded by the Right,” Brock said he was a serial liar.
“After reviewing Strange Justice, I knew I was a liar and a fraud in a dubious cause,” Brock wrote.
In one instance, he says he threatened to expose embarrassing personal information about a key witness in “Strange Justice” unless she recanted her testimony to Abramson and Mayer.
Despite the history, tensions have eased somewhat between the two.
In 2001, Howard Kurtz reported in the Washington Post that Abramson brought Brock to speak to a class she was teaching at Princeton.
Brock also recounts in his book drinking coffee with Abramson and discussing a story she was working on. “I was relieved that the subject of Anita Hill was not broached. I would not then have been ready to deliver to Jill the apology I owed her,” Brock wrote.
Still, unlike many liberals who embraced Brock’s disputed accounts in the book, Abramson has been among his most persistent critics on the left.
“I think the problem,” Abramson noted on CNN in 2001, “is that once David Brock admits he knowingly wrote lies, it’s hard to figure out when to believe him, essentially.”
“It’d be awfully convenient to now say because what he’s writing is personally pleasing to me that he’s a 100 percent solid reporter. That would be a little disingenuous,” Abramson told Kurtz, “I still have quite a bit of contempt for the kind of journalism he practiced.”
Indeed, many of the people Brock writes about in “Blinded by the Right” have denied his account, including TheDC’s editor in chief, Tucker Carlson.
“Few people I know take Brock seriously,” wrote National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, “Too many people knew him and were in the room when all of the various right-wing horrors he rails against allegedly occurred.”