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David Brock

1962-

 
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The Monica Lewinsky case, sexual allegations about Bill Clinton, the fight over the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, and 1990s right-wing conservative activism. What do these issues have in common with the University of California, Berkeley, and gay men?

The thread connecting these two worlds was David Brock, a Berkeley alumnus and journalist who became a darling of the conservative establishment for his articles and books attacking progressive figures from Anita Hill to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In the early and mid-1990s Brock’s articles, speeches, and interviews were wildly popular with American conservatives. In particular, in a lengthy article in the American Spectator retailing allegations that state troopers had helped arrange extra-marital sexual escapades for Bill Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas, Brock mentioned the assertion that one rendezvous had been with a woman known only as “Paula.”

Not long thereafter a woman named Paula Jones identified herself as the mysterious figure, but said she had rebuffed Clinton’s alleged advances. Ultimately, she sued Clinton, and through the legal machinations of that case the story of Monica Lewinsky came to light. Clinton was tried and impeached before the U.S. Senate in one of the biggest political sideshows of the late 20th century.

Through all this, one intriguing fact was not extensively known or publicized. David Brock, the journalist and Berkeley alumnus who wrote about the scandalous allegations, was gay.

In his autobiography, Blinded By the Right: the Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, Brock described his adoptive childhood. Relocated by a conservative father to Texas, he grew up lonely and rebellious, crusading for unpopular liberal causes in his suburban Dallas high school.

“I chose Berkeley [for college] partly because it was a bitter pill for my father to swallow and was as far away from Dallas as I could imagine.” Once at Cal, he worked on the staff of the Daily Californian and said he became disenchanted with liberal politics. A catalyst, according to his story, was the lecture appearance of Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Brock writes he was shocked by the hecklers who disrupted her speech. Later, he wrote an editorial supporting the American invasion of Grenada, and was attacked by the campus Left. In reaction, he gravitated towards friendship and identification with conservative professors and students.

In addition to changing his political views, Brock was also coming to understand his sexuality. He wrote he had little difficulty reconciling politics and personal life.

“At Berkeley, I had no cause to associate conservatism with prejudice against gays. In the early ‘80s gay issues weren’t polarizing our campus…since arriving in Berkeley I no longer put aside my deeper desires. With some hesitation, during my freshman year, I went on uneasy dates and had hurried sexual encounters with other guys in neighboring dorms. By the end of the year I considered myself gay and had surprisingly little trouble accepting that reality….”

During the summer after his freshman year, he writes, he was attracted to a fellow student (referred to in his book as “Andrew”), “a blond, blue-eyed dreamboat of the Brad Pitt variety…” while they both worked with CalPIRG (the California Public Interest Group).

“We became close friends instantly, and through Andrew I learned all about the gay world — and how to be honest about who I was. After I had known him for about ten months, Andrew moved into my off-campus studio apartment, and we began to live as boyfriends. I was in love….”

After college, Brock moved to Washington D.C. where he took a job at the conservative Washington Times. “Andrew” came along, although they later separated. Brock enthusiastically became a writer in the service of conservative causes. He also became a regular at gay clubs where he encountered many of the people he saw more publicly in conservative organizations and publications. “Gay Republicans were everywhere, even in the city’s bars,” he wrote, and he became one of them.

Years later Brock was “outed” in an interview. He was abandoned by the right-wing and published Blinded By the Right, in which he apologized for much of his earlier writing and said “Had I come out of college as an openly gay man ten years later, I doubt I would have fallen in with the by-then transparently antigay GOP.”

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Copyright 2002 Regents of the University of California. Email: benemann@law.berkeley.edu.