Andrew Breitbart, the conservative blogger and journalist, died suddenly on Thursday morning, according to his website Big Journalism. He was 43.
Breitbart's father-in-law told the Associated Press that Breitbart was walking near his house when he collapsed. Someone saw him fall and called 911. Breitbart was taken to UCLA Medical Center, but could not be revived.
"We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior," the post said. "Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love."
Breitbart came to be well-known for his work with the Drudge Report (he also played an early role with The Huffington Post), and would go on to found the Big Journalism, Big Hollywood and Breitbart.com websites. He was also an author, columnist and ubiquitous commentator in the media.
People from all sides of the political spectrum paid tribute to Breitbart.
Shirley Sherrod, the USDA employee who was fired from her job after Breitbart released an incomplete video of her appearing to say she intentionally discriminated against white farmers —she was actually describing how she overcame such prejudices — sent her condolences.
"The news of Mr. Breitbart's death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning," she said. "My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart's family as they cope through this very difficult time."
Republican gay rights group GOProud, of which Breitbart was a board member until recently, released a statement saying it was "stunned and saddened," and calling him an "amazing friend and ally."
Liberal media watchdog Media Matters also issued a statement. "We've disagreed more than we've found common ground, but there was never any question of Andrew's passion for and commitment to what he believed," the group said.
Matt Drudge, editor of The Drudge Report, made a rare personal statement on his website about Breitbart:
DEAR READER: In the first decade of the DRUDGEREPORT 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 20's. It was all there. He had a wonderful, loving family and we all feel great sadness for them today.
Arianna Huffington, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, also paid tribute:
I was asked many times this morning for my thoughts on what Andrew meant to the political world, but all I can think of at the moment is what Andrew meant to me as a friend, starting from when we worked together -- his passion, his exuberance, his fearlessness. And above all, what I'm thinking of at the moment is his amazing wife Susie and their four beautiful young children. My love and thoughts are with them right now.
From the Associated Press obituary:
Breitbart was skilled at finding issues that pushed conservative buttons while pulling Internet traffic to his websites anchored to news aggregator Brietbart.com.
"I'm committed to the destruction of the old media guard," he once said. "And it's a very good business model."
It also was a radical departure from conservative voices of the past such as William F. Buckley Jr.
"I do what I do because the mainstream media chooses not to do it," Breitbart said. "The game of the left controlling the narrative ... is ending."
...Sherrod, who is black, was ousted from her job as the USDA's state rural development director for Georgia in July 2010 after an edited video surfaced of her making what appeared to be a racist remark. She is seen telling an NAACP group that she was initially reluctant to help a white farmer save his farm more than two decades ago, long before she worked for USDA.
Missing from the clip was the rest of the speech, which was meant as a lesson in racial healing. Sherrod told the crowd she eventually realized her mistake and helped the farmer save his farm.
Once the entire video surfaced, Sherrod received numerous apologies from the administration – including from President Barack Obama – and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked her to return to the department to work on civil rights issues.
She declined Vilsack's offer but later sued Breitbart, his employee, Larry O'Connor, and an unnamed "John Doe" defendant for "defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress."
A lawyer for O'Connor said Thursday that it is unclear whether the case will proceed for the other two defendants, who were in the process of trying to get the case dismissed from federal court.
Breitbart's websites also featured a 2009 hidden-camera video that brought embarrassment to the community group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The videos show ACORN staffers offering advice on taxes and other issues to actors posing as a prostitute and pimp.
Those videos triggered a firestorm of criticism, with some ACORN employees appearing willing to support illegal schemes involving tax advice, misuse of public funds and illegal trafficking in children.
A Government Accountability Office report cleared ACORN of criminal activities.
Even so, public pressure led Congress to block previously approved funds from going to ACORN and to stop future payments. Roughly 10 percent of ACORN's funds came from federal grants and the group eventually disbanded.
Breitbart also sparked a controversy that ultimately led to the resignation of Weiner, whose problems began on May 28 when Bretibart's website posted a lewd photograph of an underwear-clad crotch and said it had been sent from Weiner's Twitter account to a Seattle woman.
Initially, Weiner lied, saying his account had been hacked. But he pointedly did not report the incident to law enforcement – a step that could have led the way to charges of wrongdoing far more serious than mere sexting.
Additionally, his public denials were less than solid – particularly when he told an interviewer that he could not "say with certitude" that he wasn't the man in the underwear photo.
Weiner's spokesman said the photo was just a distraction and that the congressman doesn't know the person named by the hacker.
The congressman denied sending the photo and said he had retained an attorney and hired a private security company to figure out how someone could pull off such a prank.
But Weiner dropped that story line on June 6, offering a lengthy public confession at a Manhattan news conference, acknowledging to online activity involving at least six women.
Breitbart seldom showed restraint in his vitriol to his critics and seemed to relish in the negative attention his antics earned him.
After Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts died in 2009, Breitbart tweeted, "Rest in Chappaquiddick" and called him "a special pile of human excrement." When critics questioned his tone, he tweeted they "missed my best ones!"
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