Writers and editors at the conservative site the Federalist are mourning the loss of one of their own Friday — staff writer Bre Payton, who reportedly died after falling into a coma. She was 26.
In a tweet Friday morning, the Federalist’s publisher Ben Domenech asked readers to pray for Payton, who had been hospitalized in California. “I am asking you all to pray this morning for our own @Bre_payton, who is battling a horrible and sudden medical condition,” Domenech wrote. In his tweet, he linked to a Caring Bridge page which described what had unfolded in the hours before.
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) December 28, 2018
“Around 8:30 this morning, December 27th, Bre’s friend went into her room and found her unresponsive and barely breathing,” the explanation reads. “Bre was taken to the hospital where she was admitted to the ICU, sedated & intubated.” After performing a series of tests, doctors reportedly concluded that Payton had “the H1N1 flu and possibly meningitis” — both infections that can be deadly. “The doctors are concerned that her neurological signs are not great at this point and have informed us the next 24-48 hours are going to be critical for her,” the page reads.
Several more posts on Twitter revealed that the friend who found her was Morgan Murtaugh, a 26-year-old Republican and — as of this year — the youngest female candidate for U.S. Congress. “24 hours ago I found my friend unconscious and called 911,” Murtaugh tweeted. “She’s been in a coma since and really needs a miracle right now. Please, if you’re religious at all, send prayers this way. We really need them.” By Friday afternoon, Murtaugh had updated her tweet.
“It is with a heavy heart that I type this,” she wrote. “Unfortunately Bre has passed.”
Thank you everyone for your prayers. It is with a heavy heart that I type this. Unfortunately Bre has passed. Please send prayers to her family. Rest in paradise you beautiful soul. https://t.co/pMFCZNaqKl
— Morgan Murtaugh (@morganmurtaugh) December 28, 2018
According to the Federalist’s contributors page, Payton attended Patrick Henry College where she earned a degree in political journalism. Before joining the Federalist, she worked at the conservative site Watchdog.org. On Dec. 26, Payton — who lived in Washington, D.C., full time — appeared on One America News Network in San Diego. “If you tune in to @OANNRIGHT NOW you can watch me host ‘Tipping Point’ for @Liz_Wheeler,” reads her final tweet, at 9:36 p.m. on Dec. 26.
The next morning, Murtaugh found her unconscious.
In the aftermath of her tragic death, friends and colleagues have flooded Twitter with tributes. Among them, Meghan McCain, who had earlier tweeted out asking for prayers. “Ben and I are absolutely gutted and horrified by this news. Our prayers for @Bre_payton and her family,” wrote McCain. “We are less without her – in every possible way. A wonderful, fearless, vibrant, intelligent young woman. Sending prayers to all of her family and friends during this darkness.”
There is another angel in heaven today. She left us too soon. But while she was here she was loved. Rest, in peace, sweet @Bre_payton
— Janice Dean (@JaniceDean) December 28, 2018
— Sarah Westwood (@sarahcwestwood) December 28, 2018
Ben and I are absolutely gutted and horrified by this news. Our prayers for @Bre_payton and her family. We are less without her – in every possible way. A wonderful, fearless, vibrant, intelligent young woman. Sending prayers to all of her family and friends during this darkness. https://t.co/K5nfRiB7gy
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) December 28, 2018
Bre Payton was smart, kind, & genuinely well-liked by everyone who knew her. this is so heart-wrenching to hear. Sincerest condolences to her family & friends https://t.co/EdcoJgHbNO
— Elizabeth Nolan Brown (@ENBrown) December 28, 2018
An hour before her death was announced, Ryan Colby — a media relations associate in D.C. whom Payton was reportedly dating — posted an Instagram asking for prayers. “Bre is the absolute light of my world,” wrote Colby. “She’s in a coma right now and needs all the prayers and help she can get.”
Although no official announcement about her cause of death has been made, the mention of H1N1 and meningitis on her Caring Bridge page suggests that Payton may have fallen victim to an extremely lethal infection. While the Mayo Clinic says H1N1 typically only requires medicine to treat symptoms, in rare cases, it can prove fatal.
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