Joseph Kaczmarek, File, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Andrew Breitbart used the Internet relentlessly to ignite political scandal and expose what he saw as media bias, even if he sometimes had to edit the facts to do it.
The fiery online publisher and blogger who collapsed and died Thursday at 43 relished public combat with liberals — a YouTube clip last month shows him bellowing at Occupy Wall Street protesters, "Stop raping people, you freaks!" Yet the conservatives and tea party activists who loved him said he exposed corrupt leaders and what he called the hopelessly liberal "old media guard."
The converted Hollywood lefty who partied his way through Tulane University was also a soft-spoken father of four. The conservative warrior chose to live on enemy turf, Brentwood, the tony Los Angeles enclave favored by the Hollywood elite he so often mocked.
Breitbart used his website to promote a hidden-camera video with actors posing as customers that led the downfall of the liberal Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. He posted explicit photos of former Rep. Anthony Weiner that caused the New York congressman to resign in a sexting scandal, and an edited video that caused former U.S. Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod to resign over since-reversed perceptions she was a racist.
In a new media age, Breitbart argued that anyone with a laptop could reshape public discourse. He used his skills at sites like Big Journalism and Big Government, and his takedown of Weiner established him as a conservative media star.
He was filled with contradictions. He was a self-avowed enemy of the mainstream media, yet he subscribed to The Associated Press and admitted loving the venerable news agency's photos that came from afar. "It's a love-hate relationship," he confided at a quiet moment. He pleaded with conservatives to drive relentlessly forward — walk into the line of fire, he would say — yet the final sentence from his prolific and often caustic voice on Twitter was, ironically, an apology for calling a follower a "putz," just in case he misunderstood a message to him.
His business partner and lifelong friend, Larry Solov, once said Breitbart had two speeds: lighthearted jokester and fiery culture warrior.
"They flip back and forth," Solov said. "And there is not that much in between."
Breitbart died after collapsing shortly after midnight during a walk near his home. He was rushed to the emergency room at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Breitbart suffered heart problems a year earlier, but his father-in-law, actor Orson Bean, said he could not pinpoint what happened. Larry Dietz, watch commander at the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said an autopsy was likely.
"It's devastating," Bean told the AP.
Breitbart leaves behind his showcase, a family of websites that waged daily war with what he considered liberal bias in the media, on college campuses and in the entertainment industry. Joel Pollak, an editor, said Breitbart was planning to launch a retooled version, and those plans would go forward.
"The core of what Andrew did was bring new citizen journalists into the new media," Pollak said. It "was, and still is, what we do."
It wasn't immediately clear who would take over the company, which once ran out of Breitbart's basement and now employs about a dozen people.
His anchor site, Breitbart.com, was visited by 1.7 million people in January, according to website tracker comScore Inc. Though other political sites are far larger — his mentor, Matt Drudge, attracted more than 4 million visits that month — his profile was elevated by public appearances and relentless speechmaking, particularly at tea party rallies, where he was a favorite.
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