Former Clinton foe decries ‘Clinton hatred’

LITTLE ROCK — Former conservative journalist David Brock returned to Arkansas for the first time in 19 years to give a talk Tuesday on what he called “a culture of Clinton hatred” that he said he once was a part of but now is working to oppose.

David Brock, whose reporting on Bill Clinton in the 1990s for conservative magazine The American Spectator led to the Troopergate scandal and introduced the world to Clinton accuser Paula Jones, was in Little Rock as a guest lecturer at the University of Arkansas Clinton School for Public Service, a school named for the president Brock admitted he formerly sought to discredit.

Brock last visited in Little Rock in 1995, while working on a book about Hillary Clinton.

“If you told me all those years ago that there would be a Clinton School of Public Service located on President Clinton Avenue just down the street from the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library, I probably would have had a stroke,” joked Brock, who has recanted much of his past reporting and now runs a liberal media watchdog group and a Democratic Super PAC.

Arkansas can expect to be at the center of renewed mud-slinging efforts against the Clintons in anticipation of a possible presidential run by Hillary Clinton, he said.

“Like the conservatives who once savaged Bill Clinton personally, the conservatives of today have no program to offer the vast majority of Americans, so we see them running scared, once again cultivating a culture of Clinton hatred,” Brock said.

Brock said he became a conservative in college because he was attracted to the ideals of Ronald Reagan and initially wanted to make a positive difference through advocacy journalism. He said he first came to Arkansas in the early 1990s after receiving a tip that some state troopers wanted to tell stories about Clinton’s time as governor.

“Getting to know the troopers and their handlers exposed me for the first time to the reality of Clinton hating, which I could see had its origins here in Arkansas among racists who deeply resented Bill Clinton’s early embrace of civil rights,” he said. “The anti-Clinton animus deepened when Hillary Rodham, an accomplished professional woman, came on the scene.”

Brock said he quickly became suspicious of the troopers’ motives in speaking out, but he was undeterred.

“There was really no way to tell if what they were saying was true or not. I took them at their word and I printed it all,” he said.

Eventually, Brock said, his initial idealism gave way to efforts to destroy people for partisan reasons, “with the ends justifying any means.”

“I was part of what Hillary Clinton would later call the vast right-wing conspiracy,” he said.

Brock’s shift to the left began while he was working on his book “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.” Initially intended as a hit piece, the book did not end up as one.

“As I did my reporting, I came to see what Hillary Clinton’s admirers saw in her, what I think we all see in her today: a steadfast commitment to public service and a deep desire to affirm the good and the virtuous in politics,” Brock said.

Brock has expressed his changed view of the political right in books such as 2002’s “Blinded By the Right.” He also is the founder of the media watchdog group Media Matters and the Democratic Super PAC American Bridge, the latter of which has launched a project called “Correct the Record” to defend the records of Hillary Clinton and other potential Democratic candidates.

Both liberals and conservatives should “challenge our political parties to call off the political smutmongers,” Brock said, drawing a burst of applause from the audience.