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Andrew Breitbart's embrace of conservatism followed 'epiphanies'

March 1, 2012 | 11:30 pm

Andrew Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart was remembered Wednesday for his strong conservative views, which he developed as a young man after growing up on Los Angeles' traditionally liberal Westside.

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.

Breitbart was born Feb. 1, 1969, and grew up in Brentwood with secular Jewish parents who adopted him and his younger sister, Tracy. He attended two exclusive private schools, Carlthorp and Brentwood. His father, Gerald, owned a landmark Santa Monica restaurant, Fox and Hounds. His mother, Arlene, was a bank executive.

He attended Tulane University and became a passionate consumer of what he called "girly drinks" and 1980s British alt-rock. "The music sort of meshed with my philosophical angst," Breitbart told The Times in 2010. "I would say I was a shallow nihilist."

As a young adult, he said, he had three epiphanies that turned him from a "rollerblading, gallivanting, jocular goofball" into a conservative.

He was appalled in the late 1980s when his childhood best friend and business partner, Larry Solov, told him that Stanford University had a voluntarily segregated black dormitory; he was furious at the 1991 grilling of Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court nomination hearings; and he was annoyed that some in the media had anointed Nirvana's Kurt Cobain as the "spokesman" of Breitbart's generation.

"I just started to have the awkwardly pedestrian revelation that my parents were right," he said.

Officials at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center suspect that Breitbart's death was due to natural causes.

"It looks like a heart attack, but no one knows until" an autopsy is done," his 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," Bean said.  "We're devastated. I loved him like a son."

Breitbart, 43, is survived by his wife, Susannah; four children, Samson, 12, Mia, 10, Charlie, 6, and William, 4; his parents, Jerry and Arlene; and a sister, Tracy. The family has not announced memorial arrangements. The Los Angeles County coroner's office confirmed that 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 sexually charged tweets by liberal Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, 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.

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."


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II, Andrew Blankstein, Scott Gold and Robin Abcarian

Photo: Andrew Breitbart at home in 2010. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times