Breitbart was born in Los Angeles, California, on February 1, 1969. He was adopted son of Gerald and Arlene Breitbart, a restaurant owner and banker respectively, and grew up in the affluent neighborhood of Brentwood, Los Angeles. He was adopted at three weeks old and raised Jewish. His biological parents had been Irish American. He said that his birth certificate indicated his biological father was a folk singer. His adoptive mother had converted to Judaism when marrying his adoptive father. Breitbart studied at Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah. Theologically he was an agnostic.
Breitbart attended Brentwood School, one of the country's top private schools, but did not distinguish himself, saying: "My sense of humor saved me". However, he discovered that he loved writing, publishing his first comedic piece in the school newspaper, the Brentwood Eagle, analyzing the inequality in his highschool's senior and junior parking lots: "One had Mercedes and BMWs, the other Sciroccos and GTIs."" Breitbart remembers his upbringing as apolitical, except in one instance: when the family's rabbi tried to defend Jesse Jackson against charges of antisemitism after his "Hymietown" comment, his parents left the synagogue in protest.
Breitbart would remain "proudly and playfully Jewish" throughout his life, although not always religiously observant. He would sing Hebrew songs at work while also teasing his Orthodox Jewish colleagues for keeping a kosher diet. Joel Pollak wrote: “He carried his faith as he carried all his convictions: with a lighthearted touch but a deep commitment.” Breitbart later said of his profession: "I'm glad I've become a journalist because I'd like to fight on behalf of the Israeli people... And the Israeli people, I adore and I love."
While in high school, Breitbart worked as a pizza delivery driver; he sometimes delivered to celebrities such as Judge Reinhold. He earned a BA in American studies from Tulane University in 1991, graduating with "no sense of [his] future whatsoever." His early jobs included a stint at cable channel E! Entertainment Television, working for the company's online magazine, and some time in film production.
Previously left-leaning in his politics, Breitbart changed his political views after experiencing "an epiphany" while watching the late 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. Breitbart later described himself as "a Reagan conservative" with libertarian sympathies.
Listening to radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh helped Breitbart refine his political and philosophical positions, igniting an interest in learning that he had suppressed as a result of his distaste for the "nihilistic musings of dead critical theorists" that had dominated his studies at Tulane. In this era, Breitbart also read Camille Paglia's book Sexual Personae (1990), a massive survey of Western art, literature and culture from ancient Egypt to the 20th century, which, he wrote, "made me realize how little I really had learned in college."
Ben Shapiro, who was a friend of Breitbart's for the last 14 years of his life, said Breitbart cared less about public policy than that people should not be lied about or bullied. Jeremy D. Boreing wrote:
He wasn't actually very political–that is, he had almost no interest at all in policy. ...
What defined and motivated Andrew was his unique ability to perceive the gross double standard that the media, the political establishment, and the pop culture employ in their war on those with whom they disagree.
What he hated were bullies.
Breitbart has been lauded for his role in the "evolution of pioneering websites" including The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report, and more recently his "Big" sites. Journalists such as Nick Gillespie and Conor Friedersdorf have credited Breitbart with bringing new voices to debates about politics and culture. Breitbart told Reason in 2004 that after feeling ignored by existing outlets, "We decided to go out and create our media." Described as "a series of do-it-yourself demonstration projects" and "conversation pits", the Breitbart.com websites have been both criticized and praised for their role in various political issues. Breitbart has been recognized for adopting an inclusive stance with regard to LGBT participation in the conservative movement. He has also been credited with helping to derail conspiracy theories about Barack Obama's citizenship.
In 1995, Breitbart saw The Drudge Report and was so impressed that he e-mailed Matt Drudge. Breitbart said, "I thought what he was doing was by far the coolest thing on the Internet. And I still do." Breitbart described himself as "Matt Drudge's bitch" and selected and posted links to other news wire sources. Later, Drudge introduced him to Arianna Huffington (when she was still a Republican) and Breitbart subsequently assisted in the creation of The Huffington Post.
Breitbart wrote a weekly column for The Washington Times, which also appeared at Real Clear Politics. Breitbart also co-wrote the book Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon with Mark Ebner, a book that is highly critical of U.S. celebrity culture. On January 19, 2011, the conservative gay rights group GOProud announced Breitbart had joined its Advisory Council.
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.
In June 2011, Breitbart's websites broke the story that congressman Anthony Weiner was sending women revealing photographs of himself.
Breitbart launched his first website as a news site; it is often linked to by the Drudge Report and other websites. It has wire stories from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Fox News, PR Newswire, and U.S. Newswire, as well as direct links to a number of major international newspapers. Its political viewpoint as well as its audience runs to the right within the U.S. political spectrum. In 2007, Breitbart launched a video blog, Breitbart.tv.
During a stay in Israel, Breitbart and Larry Solov conceived of the idea of founding Breitbart News Network, with "the aim of starting a site that would be unapologetically pro-freedom and pro-Israel. We were sick of the anti-Israel bias of the mainstream media and J-Street."
Solov has written:
One night in Jerusalem, when we were getting ready for dinner, Andrew turned to me and asked if I would de-partner from the 800-person law firm where I was practicing and become business partners with him. He said he needed my help to create a media company. He needed my help to "change the world." ... We were blown away by the spirit, tenacity, and resourcefulness of the Israeli people on that trip. Andrew could be quite convincing, not to mention inspiring, and I decided right there and then to "throw away" (my Mom's phrase) a perfectly good, successful and safe career in order to start a "new media" company with Andrew Breitbart.
In 2011, Breitbart and one of his editors Larry O'Connor were sued for defamation by Shirley Sherrod, who had been fired after Breitbart posted a video of a speech given by Sherrod. The video had been selectively edited to suggest that she had purposely discriminated against a white farmer, while in reality the unedited video told the story of how she had helped that farmer. In July 2015, it was reported that Sherrod and Breitbart's estate had reached a tentative settlement. It was reported October 1, 2016, that the lawsuit was settled.
In 2009, Breitbart appeared as a commentator on Real Time with Bill Maher and Dennis Miller. In 2004, he was a guest commentator on Fox News Channel's morning show and frequently appeared as a guest panelist on Fox News's late night program, Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld. Breitbart also appeared as a commentator in the 2004 documentary Michael Moore Hates America.
On October 22, 2009, Breitbart appeared on the C-SPAN program Washington Journal. He gave his opinions on the mainstream media, Hollywood, the Obama Administration and his personal political views, having heated debates with several callers.
In the hours immediately following Senator Ted Kennedy's death, Breitbart called Kennedy a "villain", a "duplicitous bastard", a "prick" and "a special pile of human excrement," adding, "Sorry, he destroyed lives. And he knew it," referring to Kennedy's actions during the Chappaquiddick incident, the Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination, and the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination.
In February 2010, Breitbart received the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. During his acceptance speech, he responded directly to accusations by New York Times reporter Kate Zernike that Jason Mattera, a young conservative activist, had been using "racial tones" in his allusions to President Barack Obama, and had spoken in a "Chris Rock voice". From the podium, Breitbart called Zernike "a despicable human being" for having made such allegations about Mattera's New York accent. At the same conference, Breitbart was also filmed saying to journalist Max Blumenthal that he found him to be "a jerk" and "a despicable human being" over a blog entry in which Blumenthal accused Breitbart of employing a racist. Blumenthal was referring to James O'Keefe over his having attended a Georgetown Law Center discussion on race featuring Kevin Martin, John Derbyshire, and Jared Taylor, the last of whom founded American Renaissance, an online magazine widely considered white supremacist. Neither O'Keefe nor Breitbart endorsed Taylor's views.
In 2011, Breitbart said that "of course" Donald Trump was not a conservative, adding:
But this is a message to those candidates who are languishing at 2 percent and 3 percent within the Republican Party who are brand names in Washington, but the rest of the country don't know ... celebrity is everything in this country. And if these guys don't learn how to play the media the way that Barack Obama played the media last election cycle and the way that Donald Trump is playing the election cycle, we're going to probably get a celebrity candidate.
These comments resurfaced after the controversy of Donald Trump hiring Breitbart News' executive chairman Steve Bannon to be his White House Chief Strategist.
Breitbart often appeared as a speaker at Tea Party movement events across the U.S. For example, Breitbart was a speaker at the first National Tea Party Convention at Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville on February 6, 2010. Breitbart later involved himself in a controversy over allegations of homophobic and racial slurs being used at a March 20, 2010, rally at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., by asserting that slurs were never used, and that "it was a set-up" by Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party. Breitbart offered to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund "for any audio/video footage of the N-word being hurled," claiming that the several Congressmen made it up. Breitbart insisted Congressman John Lewis and several other witnesses were forced to lie, concluding that "Nancy Pelosi did a great disservice to a great civil rights icon by thrusting him out there to perform this mischievous task. His reputation is now on the line as a result of her desperation to take down the Tea Party movement."
In February 2012, a YouTube video showed Breitbart yelling at Occupy D.C. protesters outside a Washington, D.C. hotel hosting a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The video showed security escorting Breitbart back to the hotel while he told the protesters to "behave yourself", and alluding to reported assaults of women at Occupy encampments, he repeatedly yelled, "Stop raping people", and called the protestors "filthy, filthy, raping, murdering freaks!" David Carr said with the incident Breitbart had caused his last "viral storm on the Web."
Breitbart appeared posthumously in Occupy Unmasked, a documentary film that contends that the Occupy Wall Street movement of "largely naïve students and legitimately concerned citizens looking for answers" is actually orchestrated by sinister, violent, and organized leaders with the purpose of not just changing, but destroying the American government.
Breitbart was married to Susannah Bean, the daughter of actor Orson Bean and fashion designer Carolyn Maxwell, and had four children.
On the night of March 1, 2012, Breitbart collapsed suddenly while walking in Brentwood. He was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead just after midnight. He was 43 years old. An autopsy by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office showed that he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, with focal coronary atherosclerosis, and died of heart failure. He was buried in the Jewish plot at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery. His grave is marked with the inscription "Herein lies a giant".
Unproven conspiracy theories have circulated about his death. However, the evidence points to natural causes. The toxicology report showed, "No prescription or illicit drugs were detected. The blood alcohol was .04%. No significant trauma was present and foul play is not suspected." Bill Whittle, a friend of Breitbart, had said that Breitbart had a "serious heart attack" just months before his death.
In remembrance, Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich praised Breitbart. Santorum called Breitbart's death "a huge loss" that strongly affected him. Romney praised Breitbart as a "fearless conservative," while Gingrich remembered him as "the most innovative pioneer in conservative activist social media in America". A special episode of Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld aired the day after his death as the host and panelists paid their tributes and showed clips from his appearances on the show.Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World. Grand Central Publishing. April 15, 2011. ISBN 978-0-446-57282-8.
With Ebner, Mark C. (March 10, 2005). Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon – The Case Against Celebrity. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-70624-3.