I Am Andrew Breitbart Now
The foregoing is by my dear friend and colleague—and one of my favorite people in the world—Katie O’Malley (known to Modern Conservative readers for years, of course). I have, on two occasions since Thursday, mentioned that I knew Andrew Breitbart personally, but that we were not close enough to be friends. Katie and Andrew actually were close friends. Andrew left behind a family, whose grief I can scarcely imagine, and a movement that loved him and misses him terribly. But his loss is felt keenly indeed by those who truly called him friend.
By Katie O’Malley
Thursday, March 1, 2012
As I write this, I find that I bounce between every stage of Kubler Ross’ stages of giref in 15 second increments. Bear with me.
Years ago, a friend of mine was listening to me noodle on a problem. She said, “You should call my friend Andrew and talk to him. He loves to talk about this stuff.” And so I did. At the time, he was still behind the curtain of the burgeoning new media space and none of us knew how exactly it would unfold and what his role would be. But everyone who spent even two minutes talking to Andrew knew he would be a game-changer.
We talked for hours on that first call (there was no such thing as short phone call with Andrew) juggling our households of kids in the background. We laughed, railed, solved as many problems in the world as we could before one child or another knocked something over. He charmed me from the first hello.
During that first call with Andrew, I was a stay at home mom who was trying to find my voice. I had feelings and opinions but I was struggling to find the confidence to express myself. Talking to Andrew with his “I know!” and “Exactly!” punctuating the conversation was magical for me at the time. He gave me confidence and encouragement to find my voice, and use it. USE IT. Get out there and fight.
Fast forward a few years and I took a shot in the dark and sent a snarky email to Human Events Editor Jed Babbin. The email was not in a format covered in “How to land a writing gig” but more “jotting down the wacky way I talk to Andrew and other friends.” And Jed, God Bless that wonderful, amazing man, let me further develop my voice under his tutelage.
And now, I feel the loss of Andrew in so many ways. I lost a friend. I think of his wife Susie, one of the most generous, amazing, kind souls I have ever met, and my heart breaks. At a time in my life I was struggling with a very real family issue, she gave me insight that changed my perspective and did so with such generous honesty and vulnerability it endeared her to me forever. His children were the lights of his life and as a mother, their pain makes me nauseous and almost paralyzed with grief for them.
As a warrior in General Breitbart’s army, I feel leaderless. In a movement that is punctuated with example after example of cowardly and self-destructive behavior, I fear for the movement and fear for my country.
Bev Perlson of Band of Mothers, always referred to Andrew as the “General Washington of our time” and she is right. Andrew did not lead from an ivory tower, a comfortable consulting office in DC or from the cesspool of Beltway politics. He led from the streets, from stages in the middle of deserts, corn-fields and town squares. He is one of the few people I can think of who never asked those around him to fight a fight or take a risk he was not already up to his eyeballs in.
One time I had to get him to a designated spot by a certain time for an important interview. I was on much feared “Andrew Wrangler Duty”. No one ever volunteered for that role, but many around him had to wrangle at some point. The challenge that drove us crazy? Knowing he had to be at a set spot, at a set time, and we would have to nudge him through all the people who just wanted a quick moment.
It didn’t matter how important the meeting, or how famous or powerful the person he was meeting was, it was never as important to him as the little old lady who tugged on his sleeve as he raced through a hallway who just wanted to say hi and get a picture. And you just couldn’t get frustrated with him when he came to a screeching halt…every 3 feet…for as long as the stretch was from where he was to where he needed to be, because it was so endearing and twas the very essence of who he was. He loved being with the warrior in the street more than any big shot that may have been on his meeting schedule. He loved what he did. He loved who if did if for. He loved who he did it with.
He was frenetic, exhausting, exhilarating and one of the funniest people I have ever known. He could make you cry with laugher as he barked out a self-deprecating story at the pace of machine gun fire. He could make you grab your camera and run to the streets to heed his call for citizen journalists.
After the Tea Party event in Nashville a few years ago, I noticed that my face hurt and I tried to figure out why. I realized it had been ages since I had smiled that much or laughed that hard. He was utterly and completely charming.
Despite the level of vitriol from the left, my frustration with my own movement, Andrew’s powerful, consistent, smart and saucy voice made me feel less despondent. He was the warrior in the foxhole who put his head up, took enemy fire, and let the rest of us see what we are up against.
All morning I have wondered, how do you fill the hole he has left? What leader can step up to take his place? And I know. No one can. He is irreplaceable. One person alone can never fill the gaping hole he leaves behind. We don’t need one Andrew Breitbart to carry on. We need thousands of Andrew Breitbarts. We need you to be Andrew Breitbart.
My heart is broken. But today, and going forward until my last breath, I am Andrew Breitbart.