BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Another cycle of presidential debates begins Thursday, bringing renewed attention to the platform that once launched local guest Ken Bone into viral fame.

Ken Bone, a longtime resident of Belleville, Illinois, attended the Oct. 9, 2016 presidential debate in-person at Washington University in St. Louis. He arrived to the event an undecided voter and left it as an Internet sensation.

Bone, employed in the coal industry at the time, had the opportunity to ask the following question to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump: “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?

People were quick to react to Bone’s appearance and actions on social media. His red sweater, his Midwestern appeal and his decision to use a disposable camera for a photo afterwards led to widespread attention and a variety of memes, most notably on social media platform X, then known as Twitter.

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Bone went from single-digit followers to tens of thousands on X just days after people learned of him from the debate, according to

Bone told CNN the next day after the debate, “I am not sure why they care about what I have to say but I’m glad they’re engaged in the political process.” Bone added that he left the debate “more undecided than ever,” even though he attended it slightly favoring Trump.

Bone told CNN that Clinton’s composure in her answers led him to reconsider, and he later said via social media that he voted for Clinton in 2016.

Less than a week after the election, Bone hosted a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” chat that came with some backlash. People traced his Reddit username to controversial posts about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and a celebrity nude photo leak, according to CBS.

Bone has made cameos on various TV programs and at various political events since the 2016 debate, though he has maintained a lower profile in recent years.

In October 2020, nearly four years after the debate, Bone was the subject of an online documentary from the New Yorker about his quick rise to fame. He noted of his experience around the debate and beyond, “Once you realize that your time is over, you have this thought in your head your whole life. Is this really all there is to life? Getting up, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, watching reruns, going to sleep? I’m going to do that again forever,” 

From time to time, Bone still speaks on political matters through his X account. It’s unclear if he plans to attend any presidential debates or any similar events ahead of this year’s general election.

FOX 2’s efforts to reach Bone for comment ahead of this story’s publication were unsuccessful.

Thursday’s presidential debate will be held at CNN’s studios in Atlanta without a live audience. Democratic incumbent Joe Biden and Republican candidate Donald Trump are expected to discuss a variety of topics. The debate is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. CT with CNN carrying the broadcast.

NOTE: Video is from FOX 2’s coverage of Ken Bone ahead of a 2020 presidential debate.