Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart caused a firestorm this week when a video he posted of Obama administration official Shirley Sherrod talking about race led to her being ousted from the Department of Agriculture.
The administration apologized to Sherrod today after it became clear that her remarks in the video were part of a longer speech explaining her changing views. But the scandal has served to place Breitbart in the center of controversy as never before.
It turns out that Breitbart's back story is every bit as colorful as his present-day persona. In a recent exclusive interview, "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran asked Breitbart about his early days working for online newsman Matt Drudge, his later days working for media innovator Arianna Huffington and more.
"I have this very specific niche," said Breitbart. "... I'm a news addict, I like the news. I would have loved to have been in the mainstream media 15 years ago, and helped correct the situation, you know, from within. But as circumstances occurred, I'm outside of the system correcting it from outside of the system. ... I have friends within the system ... I have people that like me and I have people that hate me and I can live with it."
When Moran asked Breitbart about Drudge, the blaring blogger demurred.
"That's the one thing I don't talk about," Breitbart said. "I mean, Matt is ... an international man of mystery, and the last time I saw him was running into him at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2005. That's the last time I saw him, and before that, I don't even remember the last time I saw him before that."
Moran asked Breitbart how it happened that he got his start with Drudge.
"You know, I ... right place, right time, end of story," Breitbart said. "It is what it is. ... He has his space, uh, in the media. I was an underling to Matt Drudge. He's an inspired Internet entrepreneur, and a visionary...
"I mean, I will say this: Boy, did I get lucky to work with Matt Drudge and Arianna Huffington. I mean, for lack of a better description, I was one of the characters in Richard Linklater's first film, "Slackers," you know? And in the Austin movie where they're walking, one random conversation leads to another random conversation -- I could've just been spliced right there in the middle.
"And I was wandering, and I had nothing better to do than be there on day one of the Internet revolution, while I had other friends that were in law school or in medical school. Those guys couldn't afford to take the chance on the Internet; I couldn't not take the chance to be on the Internet. And meeting Matt Drudge very early on, and then hooking up with Arianna Huffington, pretty much the skill sets that I'm employing today are very much, you know, had been learned in being in their proximity."
Moran asked Breitbart if it was the Internet knack he had that helped make the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post.
"I don't say that," said Breitbart. "I'm not sayin' that I made them.
"I don't want to ever have that conversation. I don't want to ... ever want to have that conversation, because Arianna Huffington is Arianna Huffington, and Matt Drudge is Matt Drudge. The Huffington Post is the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report is the Drudge Report. And the best part about what I'm doing right now is that I'm doing ... I get to be me right now. And that ... that's the best part of this entire thing. This, to me, is the beginning of the beginning."
So what's the goal?
"I used to have modest aspirations for what it is," said Breitbart. "My goal was that going into the 2010 election cycle, that we'd have a few stories that we could, you know, hang our hat on and say, 'wow, we were there.' You know? And we made a difference.
"And the new media is now not just acting in a defensive, reportorial way, you know, acting as a checks and balance against mainstream media, but we're actually there with video and we're there with raw reporting, saying that this is what ... here's a story that perhaps the mainstream media isn't going to tell you. And we've had too many successes during that period of time, and we've had too many people who are, for the first time in a long time, excited that there's a place now for their voice to be heard."