Andrew Breitbart, conservative Web innovator, dead at 43
The conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, the polarizing website publisher who once helped edit the Drudge Report and found his way to tea-party stardom in recent years and exposed the story of the sexually explicit tweets of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), suddenly collapsed near his Westwood home early Thursday morning and died. He was 43.
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center suspected his death was due to natural causes, Breitbart's father-in-law, actor Orson Bean, told The Times.
"He was walking near the house somewhere.... He was taken by paramedics to UCLA and they couldn't revive him," said Bean, who spoke with his daughter, Susannah Bean Breitbart, about what happened.
"We're devastated. I loved him like a son," Bean said. "It looks like a heart attack, but no one knows until" an autopsy is done.
The Los Angeles County coroner's office confirmed it will investigate the case, given how young Breitbart was.
Breitbart was a Hollywood-hating, mainstream-media-loathing conservative, and shot to stardom with two stories in recent years: breaking the story over the sexually charged tweets by Weiner, a scandal that led to his resignation; and posting a video of Shirley Sherrod, a black employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in which she appeared to make racially charged comments, leading to her firing and then a subsequent apology by the Obama administration when it was later revealed her comments were taken out of context.
Breitbart spent his first years helping to edit the Drudge Report and later helped launch the Huffington Post. In 2005 he launched his news aggregation site Breitbart.com, which was designed to counter what Breitbart described as the "bully media cabal" that he says ignores stories at odds with prevailing liberal orthodoxy. His goal, he says often, is to "destroy the institutional left."
His big splash came in 2009, when he posted an undercover video in which a pair of conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend asked employees of the community group ACORN for help with a brothel that would house underage Salvadorans. ACORN was embarrassed when some of its workers seemed too helpful; Congress responded by defunding the organization.
The Times' Robin Abcarian visited his office in West Los Angeles in 2010. "The command center of Andrew Breitbart's growing media empire is a suite of offices on Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles with the temporary feel of a campaign office. Only the computers seem firmly anchored."
Breitbart's mother-in-law, Alison Mills Bean, called Breitbart "one of the most genuine people I’ve met in my life.... He always spoke the truth of his heart and no matter what people agreed or disagreed with him he never wavered.
"And he was loved by a lot of people. And I know a lot of people found fault with his points of view ... but everyone loved him. It is a great loss for everybody."
His death produced polarizing responses online. Conservatives lamented the death of a visionary, and attacked the tweets of some liberals who were not saddened at Breitbart's death.
Said Matt Drudge: "In the first decade of the Drudge Report, Andrew Breitbart was a constant source of energy, passion and commitment. We shared a love of headlines, a love of the news, an excitement about what's happening. I don't think there was a single day during that time when we did not flash each other or laugh with each other, or challenge each other. I still see him in my mind's eye in Venice Beach, the sunny day I met him. He was in his mid-20s. It was all there. He had a wonderful, loving family and we all feel great sadness for them today."
Breitbart is survived by his wife, four children, Samson, 12; Mia, 10; Charlie, 6; and William, 4, his sister, Tracy, and his parents, Jerry and Arlene.
Breitbart lived with his family in Westwood. He was adopted by moderately conservative Jewish parents and attended two of L.A.'s most exclusive private schools — Carlthorp and Brentwood.
The profile said his father, Gerald, owned Fox and Hounds, a landmark Tudor-style Santa Monica restaurant that later became the punk rock club Madame Wong's West. His mother, Arlene, was an executive at Bank of America in Beverly Hills and downtown L.A.
-- Rong-Gong Lin II and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Andrew Breitbart signs his book, "Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!" at the Americans for Prosperity Presidential Forum in Troy, Mich., on Feb. 25. Credit: Jeff Kowalsky / European Pressphoto Agency