Red sweater Internet sensation Ken Bone reflects on debate, celebrity
When Kenneth Bone got dressed Sunday morning, he squeezed into an olive-colored suit he really didn’t fit in anymore. When he got in his car to drive to Washington University to be a participant in a town-hall style presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, he tore his pants.
So his wife, Heather, got him a red sweater and cargo khaki pants, an outfit that would lead to him becoming an Internet sensation.
“This was an emergency wardrobe change, facilitated by my wife,” Bone said Monday. “It was the nicest thing I owned that I could put on in 30 seconds.”
The 34-year-old Shiloh resident said his 15 minutes of fame is ridiculous.
“I’m just glad I was able to bring a little bit of light-heartedness to a very divisive night with a lot of nastiness and name calling,” Bone said Monday afternoon inside his Shiloh home. “So I hope some good old fashion Midwestern good humor will help us get engaged in the political process instead of all the divisive rhetoric.”
Shortly after Bone — one of the undecided voters from the St. Louis-area selected by Gallup in the audience for the presidential debate in St. Louis — asked a question about energy policy, his Internet popularity instantly soared with comments about his red sweater and mustache.
Some have compared him to the fictional character Peter Griffin on the TV show “Family Guy.” Someone came up with a Halloween costume mimicking him.
And there have been comparisons to him being this year’s “Joe the Plumber” representing middle-class voters.
Bone works at a coal-fired power plant. His question: “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job layoffs?”
He said he liked Trump’s answer, but wished he addressed the environmental concerns more, and wished Clinton addressed more about the potential for job losses and transitioning workers to renewable energy positions.
“The biggest reason I’m undecided is because we’ve heard a lot of negativity from both sides,” Bone said. “I like to make my decision based on the positives I see from the candidates, and there are not a lot of positive points being made by either of the candidates to get a 100 percent commitment from me.
Bone said he is conflicted because a Trump presidency would more likely serve his personal economic interests, but he is afraid of the justices Trump could appoint to the Supreme Court and how that could affect rights decided during the last eight years.
“It’s almost a personal interest versus community for me,” Bone said.
On Monday, Bone had interviews with the NBC affiliate in Dallas, sports talk radio, CNN, local television news channels, the Washington Post, Access Hollywood, BBC, Dr. Drew, Headline News, and Fox and Friends.
Bone was also prepping to have an interview with Jimmy Kimmel.
On Sunday he had seven Twitter followers, two of whom were his grandmother, who needed to start a second account because she forgot her password.
As of Monday afternoon, he had about 36,600 followers.
“I want to believe it’s not because of the silly wardrobe choices … but that does contribute to it, because the Internet is always going to have some fun,” Bone said. “I think the substance of it is, it was a very negative debate and very uncomfortable to watch. To be the voice of reason and pull us back to the issues and just be the friendly smiling Midwesterner, hopefully that was a little beacon of light of what was a pretty tough day for everybody.”
For Heather Bone, she is looking forward to her husband’s 15 minutes of fame to be over as she helped with scheduling interviews and assisting with technical requirements for interviews.
“When we woke up this morning, and he got the email from Kimmel, I was like, ‘Uh-oh we’re in for a little bit of a storm,’” Heather said.