Wednesday was the five-year anniversary of the unfortunate passing of the great Andrew Breitbart. So who was this giant of the conservative movement, where did he come from, and what gave rise to his prominence?
Andrew Breitbart was born in February 1969, in Los Angeles, California. He was adopted when he was young and grew up in a well-to-do home. Breitbart was raised Jewish which he continued to practice until his death. In 1991 he attended Tulane University and graduated with a B.A. in American Studies. After graduation, Breitbart had no idea what he wanted to do, and he spent time working for a cable network, an online magazine, and some time in film production. In his early years, Breitbart was left-learning in his politics, but he changed his political views after experiencing ‘an epiphany’ while watching the 1991 confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Breitbart later described himself as “a Reagan conservative” with Libertarian sympathies.
Breitbart’s career in politics began in 1995 when he got involved with Matt Drudge and the Drudge Report. Later, Drudge introduced him to Ariana Huffington (when she was still a Republican), and Breitbart subsequently assisted in the creation of The Huffington Post. During this time Breitbart began to write a weekly column for The Washington Times, which also appeared in Real Clear Politics. Also, Breitbart co-wrote a book, Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon with Mark Ebner, a book that was highly critical of the U.S. celebrity culture. In 2007 Breitbart founded his own news website Breitbart News whose mission was to promote pro-Israel and conservative news.
With the election of Obama as president in 2008, Breitbart had a new adversary to take on, the liberal media and the Obama administration. In 2009 when the Tea Party was rising to prominence, Breitbart supported this movement and their message. Breitbart spoke at many Tea Party rallies, and in February 2010 Breitbart was a keynote speaker at the first National Tea Party Convention at Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. In April 2011, Grand Central Publishing released Breitbart’s book Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World, in which he discussed his own political evolution and the part he took in the rise of new media, most notably at the Drudge Report and The Huffington Post. Breitbart appeared on many national TV shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher, C-SPAN, and Fox-News to which he brought his message of small government and personal freedom.
In September 2009 Breitbart News was instrumental in the publishing of undercover videos of illegal behavior the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN) was participating in which would lead to the cutting of Federal funding and the eventual closing of ACORN. In addition, in July 2010 Breitbart News was responsible for the publishing of heavily-edited videos showing USDA employee Shirley Sherrod making racist comments. Sherrod was eventually fired and would later sue Breitbart for defamation. Also, during the summer of 2011 Breitbart News published information about Anthony Weiner sexting which would lead to his resignation from Congress.
In 2012 Breitbart appeared to be at the pinnacle of success: Breitbart News was gaining popularity, and he was receiving media attention from defending the Tea Party. For example, he offered to pay $100,000 for any video of Tea Party members using the N-word; no videos were ever produced. In addition, in February 2012, a storm on the web was created when a video was shown of him telling Occupy Wall Street protesters to “Stop raping people,” and called the protestors “filthy, filthy, raping, murdering freaks!” Then on February 29, 2012, the conservative movement was shocked by the news that Andrew Breitbart had died of a heart attack while in Los Angeles. He was pronounced dead just after midnight. He was just 43 years old. Many conspiracy theories were produced that his death was murder, but an autopsy revealed he died from natural causes. He was buried in the Jewish plot at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery. His grave is marked with the inscription “Herein lies a giant”.
While Andrew Breitbart’s life was cut tragically short, he had a profound, lasting impact on the conservative movement and was an innovative pioneer in conservative activist social media in America. Commenters such as Nick Gillespie and Conor Friedersdorf have credited Breitbart with changing how people wrote about politics. While Andrew Breitbart is no longer with us, his legacy of protecting personal freedom and fighting for a small government lives on strong today.