In a statement memorializing Montgomery, Turning Point USA praised his role in elevating Kirk and the organization, calling him the group’s “first believer and senior advisor,” although Montgomery often described himself as a co-founder.
Charlie Kirk said in an additional statement to POLITICO: “I can’t put into words how saddened I am by the death of my dear friend Bill Montgomery.”
Before starting Turning Point with Kirk, Montgomery, who lived in Illinois, worked in marketing, publishing, restaurants and was a business development consultant.
A 2015 National Journal story recounted how Montgomery met Kirk when he was 18 and urged him not to go to college but told him instead after a speech at Benedictine University: “I don’t know you, but you need to start an organization to reach out to young people with your message.” So the next month, the two launched Turning Point together.
“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.
In Maggio’s video, he said that one of Montgomery’s goals was to get Kirk, a close ally of Donald Trump Jr., elected president one day. Maggio called Montgomery “a conservative through and through” who “wore it as a badge of honor.”
Montgomery is survived by his widow Edie, a son and a daughter.
Over the course of the pandemic, Turning Point USA representatives have downplayed the impact of the coronavirus on public life.
In two previous episodes of his podcast, March 16 and April 23, Kirk stated that he believed that the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions should self-quarantine. Outside of that, however, he has questioned the vast majority of public health proposals to limit community spread. On the Sunday edition of his podcast, Kirk said: “Do not force me to wear a mask, it’s that simple. I’m not gonna do it, I’m not.”
“[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. “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.
“A lot of people believe that. I’ve met many doctors that hold that view,” Kirk added. “Secondly, we have a huge civil liberty issue here. Why do you have the authority to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body? I thought it was ‘my body, my choice.’”
The latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control state that wearing cloth face masks have proven effective for preventing someone infected with Covid-19 from passing the disease to others, and have consequently resulted in less community spread. Several states and cities have passed mask ordinances as a result.
Kirk was banned for a brief time from Twitter in late March for falsely claiming that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was “100% effective” in treating the coronavirus. He has also pushed to quickly reopen the nation’s economy, although in March he said that young people were at risk from the virus and that they should be careful by avoiding large gatherings.
In late June, Trump spoke to a packed audience of young Turning Point supporters at a megachurch in Phoenix where he was introduced by Kirk. Few people in the audience practiced social distancing or wore masks, although the organization gave masks to everyone who wanted one and provided socially distanced seating in the upper tier of the church.
In a statement in response to questions about Kirk’s remarks on masks, a spokesman for him said: “Charlie has long said that if you are in high risk cohorts, namely the elderly and those with comorbidities or underlying health issues — of which Bill was a part of both cohorts, both groups, — then you should take every possible precaution. Had they discussed Charlie would have recommended he self-quarantine. Charlie has questioned the efficacy of masks for low risk groups, including school aged children, those under 60 that are in good health.
“The mainstream media wants to censor dissident voices and a robust debate and that’s really what Charlie’s advocating for, for a robust debate. Because so many lives and really the entire country is implicated, we need that debate more than ever.”