Brandon Darby, a leftist-turned-conservative, gives a personal look at Andrew Breitbart and the legacy he left behind.
Excerpted from Townhall Magazine's March feature, "The Legacy of Andrew Breitbart: A Warrior and a Friend" by Brandon Darby:
“Stand up and fight. I’ll be your rodeo clown and draw their fire. I’ll protect you.” –Andrew Breitbart to Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote
Approximately one year ago, Andrew Breitbart passed away from heart failure while walking late at night. Those of us who knew him personally or who were protected by him were devastated, and those who disagreed with him were surprised by the expression of grief from the conservative movement. Even CNN’s Piers Morgan admitted his surprise at how upset people were to lose Andrew and devoted a show to honoring his life. Andrew was days away from launching the fruit of months of hard work—a website that bears his name, the revamped Breitbart.com.
He had spent months with designers, his hand-picked editors, friends and business partners preparing to launch the Internet portal that joined all of his “Big” sites; Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, Big Peace and Breitbart TV. Ultimately, the staff and partners decided to continue with the launch in his honor, both as planned and on schedule. The site went on to great success despite the heartbreak of his editors and writers.
Right media began mourning Andrew and discussing his legacy and accomplishments. The role he played in U.S. politics and culture was immeasurable: helping create the Huffington Post, helping build up the Drudge Report, and ultimately establishing his own media empire. ...
Andrew built others up. He expended more of his energy promoting others than he did promoting himself. He was willing to deal with the drama of other people so he could help them better themselves (myself included). He made himself available to nearly anyone who reached out to him, individuals from both the Left and Right sides of the political spectrum—whoever was willing to have true dialogue. He hated bullies and cherished his role as the defender of the weak and weary. He was all of these things to me and to thousands of others. He took on a Left establishment at the pentacle of its power. Many of us saw him as our representative in the public dialogue—a role he realized he played, and which he held sacred.
No wonder he was surrounded by people who loved and adored him. He also had a knack for finding people who had previously been part of the Left and later decided to speak out against it. They inevitably were under heavy fire, having their lives ruined by Left media’s smears and relentless shifts in logic. Andrew reached out to them and gave them shelter. That is how he so successfully challenged and understood the Left; his army was full of former leftists whom he had saved and given voice to.
My own experiences with Andrew provide an excellent example of who he was and how he built his legacy. Andrew found me after National Public Radio did an exhaustive hit piece on me titled “Turncoat.” I had once been a prominent leftist community organizer and ultimately went to the FBI when I realized how dangerous some of those whom I once idolized truly were. I had gone undercover with the bureau and testified against former comrades. Left media had a relentless field day—actually more like field year—talking about me and the men and women I had served with in law enforcement.
It so happened that I had purchased an old Ford pickup truck from someone who attended college with Andrew. Andrew obtained my number through the seller of the truck and called me. He thanked me for my service with the FBI and asked me why I did not fight back against Left media. I explained to him that I was trying, but they would either refuse to print what I said in response to their attacks or would simply misquote me. He committed to letting me use his sites to fight back, regardless of my politics.
I began to defend myself and speak out. Andrew used nearly each and every public speech he gave to tell others about me and those like me, get them to write about us and get them to hear our stories. He rarely promoted his own work; he instead promoted all of us who had less of a voice than he had.
For the first time in nearly a year of Left attacks on me and everything about me, my mother and loved ones began to see positive things written about what I had done. Everyone else Andrew defended and promoted with his voice and star power had similar experiences. Andrew had given me a voice. Andrew gave many of us a voice.
Andrew once asked me why I did what I did—why I did not just accept the Witness Protection Program and move on. I told him that a lot of it had to do with me wanting most Americans to realize how dangerous the far Left was and what relationships they had with the mainstream Left. I told him I wanted to prevent other people like myself from falling into unchallenged false narratives. I told him the biggest reason was my fear that my little girl would grow up and have only untrue Left narratives to read about her daddy and what he had done. In classic Andrew style, he said, “My friend, I will make you whole. I promise.”
Andrew kept his promise.
I now have a career as a writer for his sites. I speak to crowds often. I run a nonprofit encouraging tea parties to get more involved in directly helping others—a nonprofit he helped start. Many of the people I hold dearest are people Andrew had introduced me to. I can honestly say he has had more influence on my life than any other human being next to my daughter. Andrew was this role model and friend to so many people. He devoted himself to building others. Andrew treated many in this manner; he made many whole. In so doing, he earned the devotion those around him felt and exhibited toward him and to his vision. Even our families felt the same appreciation we did for what he had done for us.