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Andrew Breitbart, the controversial conservative author and former member of the advisory board of gay Republican group GOProud, died early Thursday morning. He was 43.
Breitbart's website, Big Government, reported that he had "passed away unexpectedly from natural causes shortly after midnight this morning in Los Angeles." His death was confirmed by the Los Angeles County coroner's office, according to the Associated Press.
Breitbart's father-in-law, Orson Bean, said Breitbart collapsed while walking near his house in Brentwood shortly after midnight, the AP reported. A witness called paramedics, and he was rushed to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Breitbart had experienced heart problems a year earlier, but Bean could not specify any cause of death. A spokesman for the coroner said that an autopsy would "more than likely" be conducted.
GOProud cofounder Jimmy LaSalvia called the news of Breitbart's death "absolutely shocking" and a "great loss" in a telephone interview with The Advocate on Thursday morning. He said he last saw Breitbart about a month ago around the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., and there was no indication his colleague was in ill health.
LaSalvia and fellow GOProud cofounder Christopher Barron released a joint statement that called Breitbart, one of the media's most divisive figures, a "real hero of the conservative movement."
"Andrew was an amazing friend and ally to this organization," they said. "When we faced some of our toughest days, it was Andrew who was willing to come to our aid and fight for us and for what was right. We wouldn't be the organization we are today without the help of Andrew Breitbart."
"On a personal level, we want to express our deepest condolences to Andrew's family and friends," the statement continued. "They are in our thoughts and in our prayers."
Breitbart is survived by his wife, Susannah Bean Breitbart, and four children, the AP reported.
Breitbart stepped down from his advisory post at GOProud in December following the group's outing of a Rick Perry campaign official. (GOProud had defended its public criticism of the strategist, Tony Fabrizio, whose sexual orientation it said wasn't much of a secret in political circles.) "I have a zero tolerance attitude toward the intentional infliction of vocational and family harm by divulging the details of an individual's sexual orientation as a weapon of political destruction," Breitbart said at the time.
LaSalvia said Breitbart's work would be his legacy.
"He just really was a great supporter of our organization, even after he left his official role on our advisory council," he said. "He continued to be a great advocate for us and for gay conservatives. He built a great organization, a really great organization. There's a team of people who work with the Breitbart company that have all been tremendous and great friends of us and they do really great work and I'm hoping that when they get back to the important work that Andrew Breatbart started, that they're able to build upon the organization that he built and take it to the next level as a tribute to him."
Read more about Breitbart's life and career from The Washington Post.