He died of liver failure, having suffered from health problems throughout adulthood, as a result of AIDS, according to Michael Wolff in his book The Man Who Owns The News: Inside The Secret World Of Rupert Murdoch, though he provides no sources to confirm this.
Breindel grew up in an upper-middle class Jewish family in New York. His parents were refugees of Hitler's Europe, which likely influenced his views on totalitarian government and fueled his outspoken hatred of communism.
He attended Phillips Exeter, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School. At Harvard, he developed relationships with high-profile professors as well as David and Bobby Kennedy.
Early in his career, Breindel pursued work in government, as his classmates at Harvard had expected him to. At the age of 27, he went to work as Senator Moynihan's aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee. However, shortly into the job, he was arrested for buying heroin from an undercover police officer in Washington, D.C., ending any hope of a career in government or politics.
While he was still serving out his year's probation, he wrote for The New Republic and then took a research position on the PBS show American Interests. During this time, he started a relationship with Tamar Jacoby, the deputy editor of the New York Times' op-ed section. With her help and several recommendations, including one from Podhoretz, he landed a job heading the editorial page of the New York Daily News.
Breindel began working at the Post's editorial page in 1986, where he immediately began making friends and enemies. He played a pivotal role in New York's 1994 mayoral race. He was the key to securing Rudy Giuliani's endorsement by the New York Post, despite Rupert Murdoch's initial intent to support the Conservative Party candidate George Marlin. The endorsement and subsequent editorials proved crucial in a race which came down to a handful of votes.
During the last year of his life, Breindel worked as a senior vice president of News Corporation and the host of Fox News Watch on the Fox News Channel. He also continued writing his weekly column at the Post.
Breindel died at the age of 42. His funeral featured eulogies by such notable figures as New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor George Pataki, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Senator Al D'Amato, Rupert Murdoch, Henry Kissinger, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Norman Podhoretz, Andrew Cuomo, former New York City mayor Ed Koch and Martin Peretz.
In 1999, the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism was established in his memory, sponsored by Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.