Extensive interviews with a number of Brock’s current and former colleagues at Media Matters, as well as with leaders from across the spectrum of Democratic politics, reveal an organization roiled by its leader’s volatile and erratic behavior and struggles with mental illness, and an office where Brock’s executive assistant carried a handgun to public events in order to defend his boss from unseen threats.
After graduating from college in 2006 one of the places I applied for a job was as a researcher for Media Matters. (At the time my politics were still “progressive.”) What a blessing that I never heard back:
Brock became rigid and harsh with his employees — “viciously mean,” in the words of someone who witnessed it. “He spent a lot of time ripping up researchers. It was abusive. I never understood why more people didn’t quit.” …
At times, Brock would become crazed with intensity, “obsessively” involving himself in research: “There was a point at which he would pore over every single piece of research we put out, 10 or 15 dense items a day. He would line-item all of it.”
The Daily Caller’s sources reveal the cause of this behavior and its role in fueling Media Matters’ increasingly aggressive political activities:
The intensity of the 2008 campaign, say those who knew Brock at the time, seemed to exacerbate his bouts of what appeared to be mania, a condition from which he had apparently suffered for some time. In 2002, the Drudge Report reported that Brock had “suffered a breakdown” the year before and was treated in the psychiatric ward of Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington.
During a 2008 meeting of the left-wing umbrella group Democracy Alliance outside San Diego, Brock’s unusual behavior drew considerable attention. According to a fellow attendee, “David completely lost his shit. He started getting incredibly aggressive. He alienated important people in the progressive movement, like John Podesta [of the Center for American Progress] and Anna Burger [of the Service Employees International Union]. Lots of drama. There were a lot of conversations about David’s mental health.”
Two years later, at another Democracy Alliance meeting shortly after the 2010 election, Brock behaved in a way one prominent liberal who was there described as “erratic, unstable and disturbing.” Brock’s aggression, this person said, was “hard to ignore and noticed by a number of people,” generating “quite a bit of concern” about his condition. A number of demonstrably odd media appearances Brock made around this time only reinforced those concerns.
This erratic energy seemed to extend to the rest of the organization. The Daily Caller describes two MMFA staffers caught having sex in the communications war room.
Media Matters staffers could tell when their boss’s mood was off:
At some point, Brock received a prescription for his condition. “Some days he’d come in and you could tell he was on his meds because he would just sit in his office alone and not engage with staff,” says a coworker. Other days, “he’d be intensely engaged. He’d get manic, very reckless and grandiose. You’d see this level of self-confidence in him that would spiral.”
Last spring, some at Media Matters headquarters and in other parts of the progressive world were caught off guard by an interview Brock gave to Ben Smith at Politico, in which he promised to wage “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against Fox News. “It was insane,” says a coworker. “David was totally manic at the time. We were all shocked.”
Friends say Brock, who has publicly admitted drug use in the past, was working obsessively and staying out late with compatriots. “They’d close [local bars] and party till six in the morning,” said one.
A number of people in Brock’s orbit believe he was regularly using illegal drugs, including cocaine. “It’s not like he was trying to keep it a secret,” says a female friend of Brock’s.
Read all of the DC’s story. There are many other important angles here: MMFA’s strategizing with the Obama administration, Brock’s continued loyalty to the Clintons, the war on Fox News, the organization’s probable violation of 501(c)3 laws…
But what I’m curious about: has anyone ever been in a work situation (especially in the political field) comparable to the one described in the DC’s story? Because this narrative of the charismatic political leader seems pretty common. (The DC revealed Sheila Jackson Lee fit the profile last year.) Please share your story in the comments or contact me at DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com