One of the founders of the youth conservative group Turning Point USA died at the age of 80 from complications of the coronavirus.
Bill Montgomery died on Tuesday after being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to two of his friends: pro-Trump conservative strategist Caleb Hull, who posted about the death on social media, and Chicago-based citizen journalist Vic Maggio.
In a statement acknowledging Montgomery's death, Turning Point USA released a statement calling the co-founder its “first believer and senior advisor."
“I can’t put into words how saddened I am by the death of my dear friend Bill Montgomery," Charlie Kirk, who co-founded the organization with Montgomery, told Politico.
A 2015 National Journal story explained that the two met at an event at Benedictine University and Montgomery urged Kirk to skip college so he could "start an organization to reach out to young people with your message.”
“It was Bill and Charlie’s chance encounter in 2012, along with Bill’s generosity and willingness to invest in an 18-year-old with no experience and no connections that gave birth to the dream that would one day become Turning Point USA,” Turning Point said of the discussion.
Kirk has frequently derided health officials' recommendations for people to wear masks while indoors or when they are unable to socially distance in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“[E]very single time I go into one of these grocery stores, ‘Where’s your mask?’ I say, well first of all, the science around masks is very questionable, very questionable,” he said during a recent episode of his podcast. “In fact some people, some doctors think that masks actually make you sicker and have you less likely to be able to get oxygen and more likely to infect yourself, and less likely to be able to fight the virus, and actually more likely to be able to die sooner."
Hull tweeted a message that said he hopes people will stop politicizing the pandemic.
“I really wish people would just stop politicizing this pandemic and grow up while innocent people around us are dying,” Hull said. “You have no idea how painful it is to be forced to sit at home while your loved one dies alone in a hospital.”