What Really Killed Andrew Breitbart? The Likely Cause of Death The Mainstream Media Ignored
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The sudden death of a youngish media celebrity in the early hours of the morning can usually be counted on to provoke a torrent of salacious speculation from LA's ravenous media gossip mill. The passing of Andrew Breitbart last Thursday was no exception.
Breitbart, who died at 43, was a conservative icon—a manic, maddening architect of some of the most explosive political scandals in recent years. He played an outsized role in some of the world's most influential news sites, working with Matt Drudge as an editor at the Drudge Report before helping Arianna Huffington launch the Huffington Post. More recently he started his own successful network of conservative news websites, including Breitbart.com, BigGovernment.com and BigHollywood.com, which draw millions of visitors every month and earned him a hefty salary and a high profile. But he achieved a new level of notoriety in the past two years, after he helped orchestrate a series of crudely-edited video stings that led to the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture executive, and the collapse of the social-advocacy association ACORN. These and other triumphs—including the Twitter-pic takedown of New York congressman Anthony Wiener—turned Breitbart into a right-wing hero, a sought-after speaker on the right-wing lecture circuit, and a regular opinionator on Fox News.
By Hollywood standards, Breitbart's death was relatively undramatic—no bathtub overdose here. Walking back to his Westwood home shortly after midnight, after a glass or two of wine at a local bar, he suddenly collapsed on the sidewalk, a few feet away from his house. A passerby who saw him fall called 911, and paramedics transported him to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:19 am.
The first report of the blogger's demise was posted on his own website, BigGovernment.com, just hours later. Saluting him as a “happy warrior,” the site took pains to note that he had died of “natural causes.” While many journalists wondered privately what natural causes could claim a seemingly healthy 43-year-old man, thousands of mainstream outlets nonetheless parroted the phrase. But LA County Chief Coroner Investigator Craig Harvey told The Fix that “natural causes” is merely “a non-forensic evaluation of a person's death,” meaning that "[the body has] nothing externally visible that would lead them to believe that the death was caused by blunt-force trauma, a stab wound, or so on." As such, Harvey says, it is standard operating procedure for the coroner to perform a full toxicology report to determine whether "drugs, alcohol, poisons or other foreign substances" played a role in Breitbart’s death.
That exam was concluded on Friday. “The final cause of death has been ‘Deferred’ pending the receipt of toxicological and microscopic studies,” Harvey told The Fix. “It is anticipated that these test results should be available in four to six weeks. Once the results have been received and evaluated, a final cause of death will be entered for Mr. Breitbart.”
It is generally accepted that Breitbart suffered a heart attack. His father-in-law, the comic actor and conservative activist Orson Bean, was reportedly at Breitbart’s home the night he died, and saw him collapse. He later told reporters that his son-in-law had a history of heart problems—a revelation that came as a surprise to many of his friends. Nonetheless, soon after his death was announced, blogosphere back channels—and numerous emails to The Fix—began buzzing with speculation that drugs or alcohol had played a role in his passing. But despite their private discussions of the topic, not a single mainstream media outlet or website dared to publicly raise the question of substances. Instead, the media began giving airtime to right-wing conspiracy theories.