The Unreal David Brock 

David Brock lied when he wrote about Anita Hill. He played it loose when he covered Bill Clinton. Then he misled us when he apologized for lying. What are we to make of his memories of Berkeley?

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Now, after being exiled by the right wing, Brock has found another niche: serial confessor and tattletale.


This story wasn't going to be all about David Brock. At one point during this newspaper's first interview with Brock -- before any of the author's latest lapses had been discovered -- he was asked what kind of story he wrote after returning to the Daily Cal's offices from the notorious speech. "I think it was pretty straightforward and just described what happened," Brock replied. "I think that I argued to give it a lot of play, that it was a big deal that this had happened."

Then, while reviewing back issues of the Daily Cal, a reporter discovered Chris Norton's byline underneath the story that Brock claimed changed his thinking about politics. Brock was interviewed a second time and asked to explain why the published record did not support his previous claim that he wrote the story.

"I think I did," Brock said. "I'm sure I did. I remember talking to the editorial board conference about the whole thing."

By then, Steve Kettmann had publicly disputed Brock's description of the campus paper they launched two decades ago. So in the same interview, Brock was invited to answer Kettmann's critique. He conceded that Kettmann "was certainly right that they were not self-identified conservatives in the way that I was." But Brock stuck by his description of the Berkeley Journal as neoconservative. "There were definitely editorials run that were to the right of the position that the Daily Cal was taking on various issues. To me, you know, that's neoconservative. ... There was criticism of affirmative action, I remember that."

In fact, the Journal never editorialized against affirmative action in any of its thirteen issues.

By the last of three interviews with Brock, the Express had talked to nineteen former Daily Cal staffers, including Chris Norton. More inaccuracies had come to light, such as Brock's assertion that someone threw fake blood at the UN ambassador. Brock also got the venue wrong. Something was fishy. Was Brock even there?

"I went to the lecture as a reporter for the Daily Cal," Brock insisted, suggesting that while he ultimately didn't write the story, he still might have been assigned it. Brock said it was not unusual for two or more reporters to be assigned to a big campus event. But ex-Daily Cal university editor Michael Ciraolo says such tag-team efforts usually featured a shared byline, or a contributing credit at the end of the story for the reporter who did less work.

Then Brock posed a bizarre but revealing hypothetical: Even if he didn't write the original account of the Kirkpatrick incident, it doesn't take away from the thrust of the anecdote he tells in his book: "It was a pivotal moment for me in terms of my political thinking ... quite aside from whether I wrote the story the next day."

Given his historically strained relationship with the truth, Brock was remarkably blasé about having gotten major facts wrong in his book -- including one so important to his own political identity.

Drew Digby, who butted heads with Brock when the two worked at the Daily Cal together, recalled his old rival as prone to error and embellishment even back then. Digby, now a history instructor at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, faxed a copy of an ancient release from the university press office correcting four errors in a 1983 Brock story about Berkeley physics professor Charles Townes. Digby argues that it should have been a straightforward, if dull, story about Townes accepting the National Medal of Science from President Reagan at a White House ceremony. Instead, Brock tried to jazz up the story by saying Townes designed nuclear weapons, which university officials disputed.

"At some level, Brock was a brilliant reporter ... and a beautiful writer. But he could never leave it at that. He always had to make a story more, and he did it a lot."

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