Phil Valentine, a Nashville-based conservative radio host who was openly skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines before he was hospitalized with the coronavirus, died on Saturday. He was 61. “Please keep the Valentine family in your thoughts and prayers,” WTN Radio said on Twitter.
Valentine died a little more than a month after he announced he had contracted COVID-19. At the time, the radio host sounded an optimistic tone about his prospects. “Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it,” Valentine wrote on Facebook on July 11. But Valentine’s health quickly deteriorated and his family issued a statement saying that the experience had changed the radio host’s mind on vaccination. “Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine,’ and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” Valentine’s family said in a statement posted to the radio station’s Twitter account. “Please continue to pray for his recovery and PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED!”
Mark Valentine said in an interview with CNN that his brother didn’t like thinking that other people didn’t get vaccinated because of his stance. “He recognizes now that him not getting the vaccination has probably caused a bunch of other people not to get vaccinated,” he said in a July 26 interview. “And that he regrets.” At the time, Mark Valentine said that if his brother could go back in time, “his cavalier attitude wouldn’t have been what it was and he would have gotten vaccinated and encouraged everybody to get vaccinated.”
Valentine had spent much of the early part of the year encouraging his listeners to be skeptical of the vaccine and question whether they needed to get the shot if they weren’t at high risk of dying from COVID-19. He had said he chose not to get vaccinated out of “common sense” because he had “pretty low” chances of contracting COVID-19 and his odds of dying from the virus were “probably way less than one percent.”
Several officials shared tributes for Valentine after his death became public. “Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Phil Valentine and pray for his family as they navigate the difficult days ahead,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wrote on Twitter. Sen. Bill Hagerty said that “Tennessee has lost a strong conservative voice who will be sorely missed.” And Sen. Marsha Blackburn called Valentine “a visionary for the conservative movement.” Tennessee has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country with only 50.1 percent of adults fully vaccinated.