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Andrew Breitbart: Official cause of death not expected for weeks

March 2, 2012 |  3:04 pm

Andrew Breitbart

It will probably take several weeks before the Los Angeles County coroner's office determines an official cause of death for conservative website editor and author Andrew Breitbart, who died unexpectedly Thursday at age 43.

A source familiar with the investigation told The Times on Friday that although officials completed an autopsy Friday, they are awaiting results from various tests that will take six to eight weeks to be returned from the lab. The source stressed that such waits occur in most cases in the coroner's office.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was still under investigation, said officials are working on the assumption that Breitbart died of natural causes. A witness saw him collapse while walking near his home and said that he had no external injuries, the source said. Paramedics rushed Breitbart to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where doctors pronounced him dead.

"It looks like a heart attack, but no one knows until" an autopsy is done, Breitbart's father-in-law, actor Orson Bean, told The Times.

PHOTOS: Andrew Breitbart's 10 key media moments

"He was walking near the house somewhere.... He was taken by paramedics to UCLA, and they couldn't revive him," Bean said. "We're devastated. I loved him like a son."

Breitbart is survived by his wife, Susannah; four children; his parents; and a sister. The family has not announced memorial arrangements.

Sources said officials will also try to determine whether Breitbart had any underlying health problems that could have contributed to his death, a common tack in such cases.

Breitbart was a Hollywood-criticizing, mainstream-media-loathing conservative and shot to stardom with two stories in recent years: breaking the story over sexually charged tweets by former Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, a scandal that led to his resignation; and posting a video of Shirley Sherrod, an 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 that the video had been heavily edited and her comments portrayed out of context.

Sherrod released a statement saying: "My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart's family as they cope during this very difficult time. I do not intend to make any further comments."

Breitbart spent his early professional years helping to edit the Drudge Report and later helped launch the Huffington Post. In 2005, he started his news aggregation site Breitbart.com, which was designed to counter what he described as the "bully media cabal" that he said ignores stories at odds with prevailing liberal orthodoxy. His goal, he often said, was 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 Breitbart's office in 2010. She wrote: "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 him "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," she said. "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."

Breitbart's death produced polarizing responses online. Conservatives lamented the loss of a visionary, and attacked the tweets of some liberals who expressed no sadness over Breitbart's passing.

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."

"There was no stopping Andrew Breitbart from fighting the good fight with every fiber of his soul," Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) said in Congress. "Goodbye and God bless, Brother Andrew. You are loved and mourned and ever remembered."

Breitbart lived with his family in Westwood. He had been adopted by moderately conservative Jewish parents and attended two of L.A.'s most exclusive private schools -- Carlthorp and Brentwood.

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.

RELATED:

Breitbart collapsed near Westwood home

Andrew Breitbart's death: Twitter reaction

Breitbart's death to be reviewed by coroner

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Andrew Breitbart signs his book "Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!" Saturday in Troy, Mich. Credit: Jeff Kowalsky / European Pressphoto Agency

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