Bill Press: The return of Long Dong Silver
By BIll Press
WASHINGTON (Tribune Media Services) -- Ten years ago, after calling Anita Hill a liar, Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Ten years later, we finally learn that Clarence Thomas was lying -- and Anita Hill was telling the truth.
The truth about Thomas’s lies is told in David Brock’s new book, “Blinded by the Right," due out in September. This month’s issue of “Talk” magazine features a long excerpt. It recounts Brock’s ethical struggles as a writer. But, more importantly, it provides valuable insight into how the powerful right-wing media machine twists and dominates the news.
Brock’s the perfect man to expose Thomas’ lies, because he’s the one who spread them. As a darling, young acolyte of the conservative right, Brock was recruited by the "American Spectator" magazine in October of 1991 to write a feature article denouncing Hill and rehabilitating the badly-wounded Thomas.
Senate confirmation hearings had left Thomas a new, but disgraced, member of the court. In her testimony, Hill calmly told Senators how her then-boss Thomas exploited and harassed female workers. He told dirty jokes. He graphically described pornographic videos he had rented, including the now-famous “Long Dong Silver.” Perhaps inspired by “Long Dong”, he bragged about the size of his own penis. He begged for dates. He even accused Hill of leaving pubic hairs on his can of Coca-Cola. Nice guy.
Brock earned his money. In the March 1992 edition of the Spectator, fueled with ammunition provided by Thomas’s friends, supporters in the Senate and the first Bush White House, he defamed Anita Hill as a “lesbian acting out” and suffering from “erotomania.” Thomas would never have asked Hill out for a date, Brock charged, because she had bad breath. He followed up with a book, “The Real Anita Hill," which conservative magazine and talk-show hosts quickly propelled to the top of the bestseller lists.
It was only later, Brock reports, he found out the truth. When Wall Street Journal reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer published “Strange Justice”, which contained evidence supporting Hill’s testimony, Brock trashed the book in a review, but nevertheless went back to check his own sources. He discovered he’d been duped. A close friend of Thomas confirmed that he did, in fact, own a VCR and had often rented X-rated movies from a Washington, D.C., video store called Graffiti. What else had he been lying about?
“Only two people -- Thomas and Hill -- know exactly what happened between them in the early 1980s,” Brock now admits. But his review of the facts “leads me to conclude that Hill’s version of events was more truthful than Thomas’s after all.” He acknowledges that he had become “a witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine.”
Now it’s Brock’s turn to feel the wrath of conservatives. On “Crossfire”, his former boss, R. Emmett Tyrrell, editor-in-chief of the "American Spectator," called him “an admitted hoaxer.” He’s accused of changing sides now only in order to make a buck. And, as a former conservative and closeted-gay, critics say he just can’t be trusted.
Even Brock admits it’s fair to question his credibility. After all, if he lied back then, why are we to believe he’s telling the truth now? Brock acknowledges the dilemma, but told me in an interview: “What’s the alternative to admitting I lied? Continuing to live with the lie?”
That, Brock said, he could no longer do. Besides, he points out, if money was his object, he would have been much better off sticking with the bottomless right-wing money machine.
Still, even if we believe David Brock, there’s no way Clarence Thomas is going to be impeached. So, why resurrect Long Dong Silver ten years later? It’s important for two reasons. First, because it reveals how powerful and how corrupt is the conservative media.
They are an insidious combination of right-wing foundation money and unethical propagandists, in print and in broadcasting. They propped up Clarence Thomas. They’re still trying to destroy Bill Clinton. They’re now targeting Tom Daschle. Hillary was right. There is a “vast right-wing conspiracy” -- and former conspirator David Brock has unmasked it.
Telling the truth about Clarence Thomas is also important because, along with Antonin Scalia, he's one of President Bush's two favorite Supreme Court justices.
(Imagine! I wonder if they ever watched any movies together).
And, if he's so enamored by Daddy's pick of Thomas, he'll look for future nominees just like him. Beware.
The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to scrutinize carefully a president's nominees to the Supreme Court. David Brock proves they'd best be extra careful with anybody nominated by George W. Bush.