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From Wash U debate to controversy, following up with Shiloh resident, 'red sweater guy' Ken Bone

Gage Skidmore | Flickr

In the aftermath of the media frenzy following his appearance at the 2016 presidential debate at Washington University, Ken Bone, a.k.a the “red sweater guy,” has managed to have more than his so-called 15 minutes of fame.

As an undecided voter, Bone asked candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a question about energy policy, but it was his appearance and red sweater that caught the nation’s attention.

“I really don’t get it,” Bone recalled on Friday’s St Louis on the Air. “Sure I’m adorable, articulate, intelligent and all that stuff. But just the amount of praise that people heaped on me solely for existing, still kind of baffles me.”

Bone joined St. Louis Public Radio contributor John Larson for a conversation addressing controversial statements Bone made after becoming a viral sensation, what happened to his famous IZOD red sweater and his podcast called "The Bone Zone.”

The media attention Bone gained after his debate appearance led to him gaining a large social media following, as well as becoming an internet meme, a Saturday Night Live character, an Uber promoter and a Halloween costume.

Bone, from Shiloh, Illinois, said that now, he understands better what it’s like to lose privacy.

“Just knowing that people could come to my house or call me on my phone, which they do all the time, and just want to talk to me is a weird feeling,” he said.

But he said he’s also experienced many of his statements “taken out of context,” such as stating that Trayvon Martin’s death was justified and posting about how he taught his son how to use a gun.

“When you see them misinterpreted, you get that back of your mind feeling like, ‘well [people] are misinterpreting on purpose just because they want to be mean to me,’” he said. “And sometimes they are, [but] sometimes they are legitimately confused by what you were trying to say.”

Bone said he hopes to see less hostility and more discussions among people with varying political views.

“I just want to encourage people to take a second and realize that the person you’re talking to is a real human being with real feelings,” he said. “You can communicate with each other as if you were real people and we might actually get something done.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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