- The conservative youth group Turning Point USA deleted a tweet with a Nicolas Cage meme mocking people wearing protective masks.
- The tweet was deleted after the group’s cofounder Bill Montgomery died at 80 of complications related to COVID-19.
- The other cofounder, Charlie Kirk, has questioned mask mandates but said that people at a higher risk of developing a severe COVID-19 case should self-isolate.
- President Donald Trump was criticized last month for speaking at a Turning Point Action event where attendees were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
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The conservative youth group Turning Point USA deleted a tweet mocking protective masks after its cofounder Bill Montgomery died at 80 of complications related to COVID-19.
Two friends of Montgomery confirmed his death to Politico on Wednesday. In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Charlie Kirk, the group’s chairman, paid tribute to him, describing him as an “American hero.”
“He touched the lives of thousands of young Americans and I will miss him greatly,” Kirk wrote.
An American hero died today.
Bill Montgomery passed away at 80. He believed in me. He poured his heart & soul & time into me. He took a risk on me and without Bill Montgomery, there is no @TPUSA
He touched the lives of thousands of young Americans and I will miss him greatly. pic.twitter.com/hfJpCrLC6d
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) July 28, 2020
The group, established by Kirk and Montgomery in 2012, has criticized public-safety measures designed to slow the spread of the disease, such as wearing masks.
The tweet mocking masks, posted on Tuesday, featured a meme of Nicolas Cage and the message “me not wearing a mask while a leftist screams at me from their car from across the parking lot at whole foods.”
By Thursday morning, the tweet was no longer on Turning Point USA’s Twitter feed. It wasn’t immediately clear why the tweet was deleted.
Some critics of the group had mockingly replied to the tweet mentioning Montgomery’s death.
While he has expressed skepticism about some measures to mitigate the spread of the disease, Kirk has said that people at a higher risk of developing a severe case, such as older people and those with underlying health conditions, should self-isolate.
In a March opinion column for Fox News, he said young people not observing coronavirus protective measures were “endangering an entire society.”
But he has been highly critical of masks – on his podcast on Sunday, he said that mandating that people wear masks was wrong. “Do not force me to wear a mask. It’s that simple,” he said. “I’m not going to do it. I’m not.”
A TPUSA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reason the tweet was deleted.
Another tweet posted last week that was critical of wearing masks remained on the group’s Twitter feed on Thursday.
— Turning Point USA (@TPUSA) July 22, 2020
In June, President Donald Trump was criticized for not wearing a mask at a Turning Point Action event in Phoenix, Arizona. Many attendees also did not wear masks or follow social-distancing guidelines advocated by public-health experts.