Andrew Breitbart, a Republican media mogul from Los Angeles has died. He reportedly collapsed while walking near his home in Brentwood shortly after midnight early Thursday morning. He died, of natural causes, in the hospital. He was 43 years old.
Breitbart, who once proudly called himself a “biased journalist,” worked at the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post before starting his own family of conservative web-based media outlets. He is best known for publishing the damning photographs in 2011 that forced Anthony Weiner, then a Democratic congressman from New York, to resign.
Breitbart was adopted as a child and raised as a Jew, and he enjoyed needling the Jewish community for what he saw as its liberal leanings. At a Republican Jewish Coalition event in June 2011, Breitbart gleefully regaled the audience with the story of his being kicked out of Hebrew school at University Synagogue as a child.
“That’s where the battle started with the liberal Jewish community,” he said.
In an interview conducted shortly after the event, Jay I. Frailich, who has been the synagogue’s cantor for 37 years, remembered Breitbart fondly.
“I remember him,” Frailich said. “He was a nice kid.”
Frailich disputed Breitbart’s story about being kicked out of Hebrew school, though,
“I certainly don’t remember kicking him out,” the cantor said. “He had a bar mitzvah here. We don’t kick kids out.”
“I think it was just a nice story; he was trying to make a point to a Jewish audience,” Frailich added.
On his websites, including Big Government, Big Hollywood and Big Journalism, Breitbart did stretch the boundaries of the truth, and never more so than when, in 2010, he circulated misleadingly edited footage of a speech given by Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod. The video, which appeared on BigGovernment.com, inaccurately portrayed her remarks as racist. She was forced to resign, but later received an apology from the Secretary of Agriculture and was offered a new position.
An ally of the Tea Party, Breitbart’s passing was mourned in messages tweeted on Thursday morning by conservative politicians and media personalities from across the nation.
“Andrew Breitbart was the most innovative pioneer in conservative activist social media in America,” Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich wrote. “He had great courage and creativity.”
Gingrich was also on hand at the Republican Jewish Coalition event where Breitbart spoke, and at the time, Breitbart called the former House speaker “a very smart man, a very wise man,” but added that he did not want to see Gingrich become the Republican nominee, preferring instead “someone from the Tea Party.” “I hope that he [Gingrich] becomes the top adviser to the future President of the United States,” Breitbart said.
Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum also tweeted in Breitbart’s memory.
Breitbart’s media creations included the website Big Peace, which focused on foreign policy and national security, and frequently addressed Israel-related affairs.
Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition event In 2011, Breitbart said journalistic objectivity, when covering Israel, was misplaced.
“You cannot be objective when it comes to right and wrong,” Breitbart said. “And Israel is in the right. So I’m a biased journalist, and I’m having a great time doing it.”
According to a tweet by Dave Weigel of Slate.com, Breitbart’s “Big” websites would continue their operations.
Andrew Breitbart speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition in June of 2011.