I knew Andrew Breitbart. These are words a lot of other people will be writing today too because he was so uniquely knowable.
The first time I met him was in 2005 with his wife Susie. They were one of those couples with a ton of chemistry and a comfort with each other that made other people feel comfortable too. I was a 26-year-old cynic, and they were open and welcoming to me
I'd run into him from time to time at various conservative functions in New York or DC. He was always affable, good-humored and kind.
I saw him a few weeks ago at CPAC. My friend Claudio Simpkins, his wife Paloma and I were holding up a wall at a crowded party. He saw me and came over. He asked "how's things in New York?" and then "Is this your New York crew?" I said they were. "I could tell, you're all so stylish." We might have collectively blushed. That was his easy, friendly way.
He'll be remembered for many things. One in particular will be his 13 minute impromptu press conference preceding the press conference where Anthony Weiner admitted to doing exactly what Breitbart maintained Weiner had done while the mainstream media believed Weiner.
Another thing will be his exposing blatant corruption at the ACORN organization.
One of my personal favorite memories of him, though, is this story, where he lets what he thinks is an anti-war march ruin his good time out with his wife - and then apologizes in the Los Angeles Times that he was wrong and he's sorry. I loved that he could take responsibility when he did something wrong. I think he just wanted the same from his targets.
I interviewed Andrew last May in NYC about his book Righteous Indignation. The book was mostly an autobiography about how he found himself a fighter on the right after growing up a liberal in Los Angeles.
We talked for awhile about politics, about family (he wouldn't even touch on the subject of his enemies targeting his family, he didn't want to think about it at all) and about media.
I told him I was doing the interview for WNYC and asked him what he thought of that as NPR was a target of James O'Keefe, Breitbart's frequent partner in pranksterdom.
He said "My message to NPR is sorry, don't take it personally. David Folkenflik did one of the fairest profiles of me ever and I consider him a good journalist. I treat all journalists as innocent until proven guilty."
Most interesting to me, as I learned in his book, and through our interview, was that Breitbart borrowed money from his father to start his website Big Government. I always assumed he was rich, having helped launch Huffington Post, but he wasn't.
"I'm a scrappy capitalist. I have such middle class behavioral tendencies, no big aspirations to make the money. Costco is enough for me, my SUV and minivan are enough for me, our house in LA, our children going to public school and parochial school is enough for me. My father-in-law wrote a book called Too Much Is Not Enough, constant aspiration in LA is debilitating. I have a pedestrian appetite when it comes to money. That said, I want to own the Dodgers."
With that he laughed his amazing, open laugh. He was thinking about a black-tie event he had that night, an event for which he had forgotten to bring black tie attire, or any tie, yet he was leaning back in his seat cracking jokes with me. He was that kind of easy-going guy.
The last question I asked him was who he liked for president in 2012. It was still early enough that there was Sarah Palin speculation. He said he didn't have a candidate but that he wanted "to watch them all fight it out Simon Cowell American political idol style and the candidate with best media skills will win. This is an existential battle for the soul of the country."
He might not get to own the Dodgers but he got the political fight he wanted. Rest in peace, Andrew Breitbart.