Andrew Breitbart, 1969-2012
7:05 PM, Mar 1, 2012 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
I suspect many of Andrew Breitbart's friends thinking today about how they’ll remember Andrew will picture him charging through the lobby of a hotel followed by opponents hoping to trip him up, supporters cheering on the confrontation, or journalists taking it all in. Some will recall seeing him give a speech to hundreds of conservative activists as he did in Michigan last Saturday. Many will remember having drinks or dinner or coffee with Andrew and a large group of people crowded around a tiny bar table or spilling out awkwardly into the aisles of a restaurant.
This is who he was and what he did. His influence on journalism is indisputable. He was the silent partner in the Drudge Report for a decade. He helped start the Huffington Post. He created Big Government and the associated “Big” websites. He advised the founders of the Daily Caller. He was a pioneer of the kind of “combat journalism” practiced by the new Washington Free Beacon.
Andrew didn’t always get it right. None of us does. We had differences about a number of things, including the wisdom and utility of engaging political opponents willing to just make stuff up. Andrew thrived on confrontations and sought them out. He believed that someone had to fight the distortions and misrepresentations of the left, and that it was important to do it without the conventional politeness of those who use words like “distortions” and “misrepresentations” instead of “lies.” He went after his opponents aggressively and made enemies. But he made just as many friends, including many who disagreed with him vehemently.
He brought together people who would have never met were it not for his insistence that they would get along or learn from each other. He was almost always right. And following the confirmation of his death this morning—after many minutes believing, hoping and praying that it was a big hoax—I thought of the many people I had met because of him.
John Wordin called early. He runs Ride 2 Recovery, a charity that helps soldiers recover from battle wounds, physical and mental. Andrew introduced us by email because of our common interest in those who fight our wars. Three weeks later I was on a 500-mile bike ride across Texas with several dozen soldiers and marines and, for one hilarious day at the end, Andrew himself.
Andrew wasn’t exactly a natural cyclist. To the extent that he exercised at all, it was usually some kind of exercise that didn’t require a ton of exertion. He knew—we all knew—that he was unlikely to finish the ride of some 70 miles, but he didn’t much care. That night, we had one of those only-in-Breitbart-world dinners, spilling out of a booth at a Dallas steakhouse. Actress Kristy Swanson was there. So was Chad Fleming, a decorated special ops soldier. Andrew had brought Jon David, a former Stanford tennis player and songwriter who worked at the time under a pseudonym because of his conservative politics. There was a lawyer from Dallas and a friend. As usual, Andrew did most of the talking, flitting from subject to subject like a fruit fly jumps from banana to banana. There were snatches of conversation about reality television, nighttime raids in Iraq, the left-leaning bias of the mainstream media, our families.
The last subject was inescapable. Andrew had brought to Texas, and to dinner, Samson, the oldest of his four children, who was perhaps 10 years old. So we talked to Samson a bit about surfing and school and girls. He answered politely but I got the sense the adults were more interested in talking about those subjects than he was. He was content to sit and listen. He was just excited to be along with his dad.
Andrew and I talked about Samson, his siblings, and their mother at some length when I saw him at a Tea Party conference in Troy, Michigan, on Saturday afternoon. He’d just finished giving a highly entertaining and, as always, provocative speech to an appreciative crowd. (The ovations for Andrew were far louder than the ones for either of the two presidential candidates who would speak to the crowd that day.) We talked about his recent confrontation with an Occupy Wall Street crowd at CPAC and that fact that he decided to shave his beard because he thought he looked more slovenly with it than the protestors he was mocking.