Andrew Breitbart likes to see himself as a pretty decent guy, not a man widely reviled as a sensationalist conservative crusader.
When BW asked for an interview at a recent book-signing, he looked up with a skeptical smile.
"Is this gonna be a hit job?" he asked.
It was an ironic question coming from someone who gained national notoriety by executing several high-profile hits of his own.
A cursory Google search of his name turned up character assassinations ("Evil," "Devil," "A crook and a liar. He should be exterminated") and verbal assaults ("You're despicable. You're a despicable human being," "His mother must throw up thinking of him,") hurled at or by Breitbart.
But May 19 was an evening of praise for Breitbart as he headlined the Idaho Freedom Foundation's second annual Freedom Celebration and Banquet. The influential conservative lobbying group's event at the Nampa Civic Center drew most of the state's elected Republican officials, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, more than a dozen state legislators and a total of nearly 400 people, roughly double the number that attended IFF's first banquet in 2010.
When asked to name his favorite thinkers and writers, he didn't point to verbal bomb-throwing ideologues like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter (he likes them, too), but to bona fide contrarian intellectuals like Christopher Hitchens and Camille Paglia.
Among his enemies--and there are many--Breitbart listed Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw, "the ghost of Peter Jennings" and the "Democratic media alliance" that he said feigns objectivity while promoting a leftist agenda.
"I'm going to destroy these guys, because they are bullies," he said.
After graduating from Tulane University in the late 1980s with what he called a "worthless degree in theoretical Marxism," Breitbart toiled through odd jobs in the entertainment industry before working for 15 years with Matt Drudge, the iconic and reclusive conservative news aggregator. In 2005, Breitbart launched breitbart.com and followed up with themed sites like biggovernment.com, bighollywood.breitbart.com and bigpeace.com.
Breitbart said he doesn't consider himself a policy expert or even a partisan.
"I'm not as political as people think I am," he said, but added that he looked forward to the upcoming 2012 presidential election to watch candidates "get pulverized. This is Survivor."
The bestselling author of Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World said success didn't come without a price.
"There are things that are enthralling and things that are debilitating," he said.
Breitbart worries about his wife and four young children but works to protect them from his notoriety. "I don't think you know too much about them, and that's on purpose."
Breitbart said he dreams about moving his family out of what he called "the madness" of Southern California to the relative calm of a place like Idaho. He lamented his kids' "appointment childhood" of Mandarin lessons and scheduled play dates. In Idaho, he imagined his children could "be outside scraping their knees and having fun in the elements and learning how to ski and just be. Something doesn't feel right about how kids are being raised in big cities these days," he said. Idaho, on the other hand, "has a mythic aura and a sense of freedom."
Breitbart said the legacy of the Aryan Nations in Idaho's panhandle worried him.
"But knowing me, I'd probably move up there just to get in their faces."