Within minutes of posting his last tweet at 11:25 p.m. PST on Wednesday night, in which he apologized for calling one of his followers a “putz,” Andrew Breitbart was dead of an apparent heart attack at the age of 43. Most of Breitbart’s followers adored his energy, his brashness and his courage. Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online said “He was one of the most fearless people I ever knew.” Tucker Carlson of the Daily Caller agreed with Goldberg: Breitbart “was completely fearless…he thrived on the brawling.” Terry Moran of ABC News said “I’ll remember his enormous, brawling passion…” Rick Santorum added: “What a powerful force. What a huge loss.”
Ned Ryun, president of the American Majority and a personal friend of Breitbart, was thoughtful in his mourning:
The conservative movement has lost a powerful voice in the fight to protect our freedom. Andrew was a pioneer in using social media and digital technology to bring a courageous conservative message to America’s grassroots.
He did something many in the conservative movement are afraid to do — go right at the left and not back down. He served as an example to the rest of the conservative movement of how to fight for our values without apology or compromise.
In one brash moment Breitbart’s fearless and relentless personality was on display. Following his publishing of improper photos of former Congressman Anthony Weiner last May on his website, BigGovernment.com, Weiner was forced to appear at a press conference to confess. Breitbart was there and jumped in front of Weiner, grabbed the microphone and shouted: “I’m here for some vindication! The media says, Breitbart lies! Breitbart lies! Breitbart lies! Give me one provable lie!” The Congressman resigned following the press conference.
Breitbart started as an editor for Matt Drudge at his Drudge Report and then moved on to create his own news aggregator website, Breitbart.com. His business model was elegant in its simplicity: “I’m committed to the destruction of the old media guard.” He started three other websites, attacking deceit in Hollywood with his BigHollywood.com website, shenanigans and political corruption in Washington with his BigGovernment.com website, and foreign policy posturing and gaffes with his BigPeace.com website.
His purpose at BigJournalism.com was “to hold the mainstream media’s feet to the fire. There are a lot of stories that they simply don’t cover, either because it doesn’t fit their world view, or because they’re literally innocent of any knowledge that the story even exists, or because they are a dying organization, short-staffed, and thus can’t cover stuff like they did before.”
In addition to the demise of Congressman Weiner, Breitbart also facilitated in the exposure of ACORN when he arranged for the clandestine taping of a meeting between ACORN employees and an alleged prostitute and her boyfriend who were seeking assistance in getting financing for a brothel. They also sought advice on how to bring into the country underage girls from Central America to use as prostitutes. The ACORN employees told them flatly to lie on the forms, calling the girls “performance artists” and “exchange students.”
When outraged ACORN officials protested, Breitbart, in his typical brash confrontational style, invited James O’Keefe (the “boyfriend”) to respond on his BigGovernment.com website and then mightily defended his actions on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel program.
His brashness got him into trouble on occasion. By taking snippets of a 40-minute video of Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod speaking at an NAACP fundraiser, Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com website attempted to show Sherrod discriminating against a white farmer looking for assistance. Sherrod was forced to resign over the exposure but was later rehired when the snippets were revealed to be taken out of context. At Breitbart’s death a defamation lawsuit by Sherrod remains pending.
A firebrand with a heart, Breitbart unknowingly left his legacy when he wrote the concluding passage last April for his latest book, Righteous Indignation:
I love my job. I love fighting for what I believe in. I love having fun while doing it. I love reporting stories that the Complex refuses to report. I love fighting back, I love finding allies, and — famously — I enjoy making enemies. Three years ago, I was mostly a behind-the-scenes guy who linked to stuff on a very popular website. I always wondered what it would be like to enter the public realm to fight for what I believe in. I’ve lost friends, perhaps dozens. But I’ve gained hundreds, thousands — who knows? — of allies. At the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror, and I sleep very well at night.