It would have been easy to resent Bre Payton.
Blessed with rare natural beauty—she was even more stunning in person than she was in photos or on television—Bre seemed unaware or unaffected by her own physical gifts. I know this because when she sat next to me the first time I met her nearly a year ago at CPAC, I said something along the lines of wanting to put a bag over my head. (I also was surrounded by other young, beautiful, and smart Federalist writers.)
She laughed but looked at me like she wasn’t sure why I had said that. I was shocked to find out she was half my age, not just because she already was earning an impressive name for herself in the harsh, hypercompetitive world of political journalism, but because she possessed a poise and authentic charm lacking in most of her mid-20s contemporaries. She was warm and engaging, talked about missing her family back in California, and bragged about her boyfriend, Ryan, who was seated next to her, and his work on behalf of his pro-life clientele.
Surely I, of all people, could find a flaw in her. Something, anything, to offset all this loveliness? Alas, it was an effort in futility. I found none—and my flaw-finding is legendary. It would have been easy to resent her, except there was no way she would let you. She was the whole package.
We met up again in late September when she interviewed me for The Federalist podcast. It was the day before the Capitol Hill showdown between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, and to say Washington was hit by a political tempest would be an understatement. We covered a range of issues, from the attacks on Kavanaugh to the FISA warrant on Carter Page to the resignation of Scott Pruitt; she was prepared to discuss all of it in detail.
At the end of the interview, Bre wanted to talk about organic food, a topic I used to cover extensively, because she and her mom would often debate about whether organic was better for you. (Bre, wisely, was a no.) Her mom had started shipping her boxes of fresh produce from local growers to make sure she was eating healthy food. “She’s been sending that to me, which is really sweet because I do less grocery shopping now,” she told me. (You can listen at the 45-minute mark to get a sense of how close she was with her family and begin to remotely grasp the unimaginable, crushing pain they are now suffering.)
I left with a hug and, like everyone else, never thought it would be the last time I would see her.
Bre Payton, who died Thursday after a sudden and brief illness, could have done anything. A talented writer and hard worker, Bre would have succeeded in any industry; companies would have fought to hire her. She could have stayed home in California near the safety of her family and avoided the brutality of engaging in national politics during the Trump era.
But she instead entered the fray, to crib a line from Ben Domenech, co-founder of The Federalist. Even though she made what she did look easy, it is not. Being an outspoken Christian and defender of the unborn are not exactly popular positions among her contemporaries, let alone her elders in the political commentary class.
And, yes, she was a rising star with an influential and profitable career ahead of her. I didn’t know her well, but I got the sense that her greatest ambition for the future was to be a wife and mother—and it is that unfilled dream which is the most painful, I’m sure, for those who loved her to bear.
We at American Greatness send our prayers and deepest sympathies to Bre’s heartbroken parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues at The Federalist and Fox News. We grieve not just the loss of a thoughtful, courageous and spirited voice on the Right, but a truly decent human being—a beautiful soul inside and out—at a time when they are in short supply.
Rest in peace, Bre Payton. It is a colder, less kind, and less colorful place without you.
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Photo credit: The Federalist