- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A former critic of the Clintons who now heads an effort to defend Hillary Clinton and other potential Democratic 2016 contenders said Tuesday both parties should disavow the “political smut-mongers” that he said he was a part of in the 1990s.

Returning to Arkansas for the first time in nearly two decades, David Brock said the tactics he engaged in as a reporter for the conservative American Spectator turned out to be the “rough model” for similar attacks on Democrats’ records. Brock wrote the 1993 article that sparked Paula Jones’ sexual harassment suit against former President Bill Clinton.

“There’s probably no better place than Little Rock for me to say, I know from personal experience the best efforts of the right wing to market political smut did not beat the Clintons,” Brock told an audience at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. “The truth won out in the end, and it will again.”

Brock called his evolution from the Clintons’ nemesis to one of their biggest defenders a “cautionary tale” as both parties gear up for the 2016 presidential race. Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator and first lady, hasn’t yet announced whether she will again seek the White House.

Based on interviews with state troopers, Brock in 1993 wrote an article in the conservative American Spectator about allegations that a woman known only as “Paula” allegedly had an untoward meeting in a hotel room with Bill Clinton. Paula Jones later came forward and filed a sexual harassment suit against Clinton. Clinton’s testimony in that suit in which he denied having a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky helped lead to his impeachment. The president was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.

Brock, who has since apologized for that article and questioned the credibility of the troopers he quoted, said it was part of an effort by conservatives to oust a president whose policies they feared.

“The conservative powers that be wouldn’t accept the legitimacy of a victory by a young, dynamic, progressive couple who threatened established political and social order. They were serious agents of change,” Brock said. “So the conservatives defied 200 years of American history and they set the stage for what amounted to an attempted coup.”

Brock last year launched an effort called Correct the Record through the American Bridge super PAC he founded that is aimed at defending Hillary Clinton and other potential Democratic presidential candidates from attacks on their records.

The effort comes as attention has refocused on the Clinton Presidential Library, which has been releasing thousands of previously confidential documents from the former president’s administration. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential GOP contender, also has invoked Bill Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky, something that Brock singled out for criticism in his speech.

“Why don’t we challenge our political parties to call off the political smut-mongers? Agree to have a thoughtful debate about our conflicting philosophies of government and society. Give the American people the presidential campaign they deserve, one based on real issues and on public record,” Brock said. “Ask is it relevant to someone’s performance in public office before attacking.”

Brock spoke to a packed room that featured many Clinton allies and aides, including former White House counsel Bruce Lindsey and former U.S. Sen. David Pryor.

“In the 1990s, this guy was not shooting friendly fire, but I think it’s significant that 19 years later he makes a return visit,” said Skip Rutherford, a longtime Clinton friend and dean of the Clinton School. “It’s significant that he talked about his Arkansas experience, what kind of impact it had on him and what kind of impact it’s having today.”


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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