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Andrew Breitbart, conservative publisher and activist, dies at 43 in LA (updated)

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Conservative media publisher and activist Andrew Breitbart has died at the age of 43.

The news broke on one of his websites on Thursday morning that he died of natural causes in L.A. just after midnight. Father-in-law Orson Bean said that's when Breitbart collapsed, walking near his Brentwood home. Breitbart had suffered heart problems a year earlier, but Bean said he could not pinpoint what happened.

"I don't know what to say. It's devastating," Bean told The Associated Press.

His death was confirmed by Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak, who says he was at the hospital. Larry Dietz, watch commander at the L.A. County coroner's office, said the cause of his death was unknown and an autopsy would "more than likely" be conducted. Breitbart lived in L.A. with his wife and four children.

Reaction to his death was quick. "RIP 'O Mighty Warrior!" Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a message on Twitter, the medium where Breitbart often confronted his critics with abrasive messages. Indeed, one of Breitbart's final messages called a follower "a putz:"

His Twitter profile, meanwhile, said he was "mild-mannered family guy" and "husky male model."

Breitbart spoke his mind on and off the Web. In this confrontation with journalist Max Blumenthal, Breitbart calls him a "jerk," "despicable human being," and "the lowest life form that [he's] ever seen:"

Breitbart was an outspoken critic of mainstream media, and has been lauded as a pioneer in Web news for his roles in helping to found the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post. He was behind controversial investigations that led to the resignations of former Rep. Anthony Weiner and former Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod. And he was lionized by his fans for his efforts at exposing government corruption and media bias.

We'll have more on Breitbart's life on The Madeleine Brand Show at 9 a.m. Listen live around 9:12.

This post has been updated since it was originally published.

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