NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Phil Valentine, a conservative talk radio host from Tennessee who had been a vaccine skeptic until he was hospitalized from COVID-19, has died. He was 61.
"We are saddened to report that our host and friend Phil Valentine has passed away," Super Talk 99.7, who employed the popular conservative talk radio host, wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "Please keep the Valentine family in your thoughts and prayers."
Valentine had been a skeptic of coronavirus vaccines. But after he tested positive for COVID-19, and prior to his hospitalization, he told his listeners to consider, “If I get this COVID thing, do I have a chance of dying from it?” If so, he advised them to get vaccinated. He said he chose not to get vaccinated because he thought he probably wouldn’t die.
After Valentine was moved into a critical care unit, Mark Valentine said his brother regretted that “he wasn’t a more vocal advocate of the vaccination.”
“I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, ’Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories,” Mark Valentine told The Tennessean on July 25.
“He regrets not being more adamant about getting the vaccine. Look at the dadgum data,” Mark Valentine said.
Valentine, a radio personality since he was 20, became a popular conservative Nashville talk show host in 2001 by railing against a state income tax proposed then by Republican Gov. Don Sundquist.
Valentine grew his program into a nationally syndicated show that aired for 12 years on as many as 100 stations. At the end of the run, Valentine signed a three-year deal in 2019 that kept him on Super Talk 99.7 WTN.
Valentine told The Tennessean four years ago that his mother's car crash death spurred him to get out of his small North Carolina hometown.
“Nothing wrong with my hometown, but the name of the game is bigger market," Valentine said. "I didn’t embrace that until my mom was gone.”
Valentine grew up wanting to be a rock star, and he started fronting bands at age 13.
He quit college and went to broadcasting school after a friend, Steve Brown, said, “You’ve got a deep voice. Why don’t you do radio?”
Toward the end of his career, Valentine became a fiction novelist and a podcaster, joining forces with his son Campbell to tell stories about history and other non-political topics.
The father-son podcast, PodGOATs, softened the elder Valentine's image as they joked around about their relationship.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Senators Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn took to Twitter to express their condolences.
“Phil Valentine was a visionary for the conservative movement, and he made an enormous impact on the lives of many Tennesseans,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn tweeted. “My deepest condolences and prayers are with Phil’s wife, Susan, and his family. May they be comforted and surrounded by love during this difficult time.”
Contributing: The Associated Press