I know I don’t have to tell you this. You already know. Cory Gardner has been yeeted, and it is in no small part because of the Instagram account @yeetcorygardner.

After emerging from the ether on September 21, the satirical meme account amassed more than 21,000 followers before Election Day. It also got Senator-elect John Hickenlooper to do this:

But where did @yeetcorygardner come from? And who is the comedic mind behind it? While Coloradans watched the square state yeet Gardner on Tuesday night, and the electoral college yeet … well, no one yet … I set out on a very important election-night mission: Find the small-town girl behind the biggest meme account in Colorado’s history (my label, not hers). This is her story.

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…and he only skis Vail. (📸: James Wooldridge)

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The anonymous woman behind the account is 27 and works in marketing. Her dreams were always big, but she started small.

“I had been talking to a couple of my friends about the Colorado Senate race and how stressful it was, and I said, ‘I’ve been really wanting to do T-shirts that say Cory Gardner goes to Casa Bonita for the food,’ and then I talked about doing, like, little illustrations.”

But with the election so close, there just wasn’t enough time for all that.

“One of my friends told me that was going to take too long and suggested that I just use photos and put text over them. And so as a joke, I made a couple and then threw them up on an Instagram account.”


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“There are no cliff divers here.” -Cory Gardner, 2016 (📸: J. Scott Applewhite)

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There’s only one way to yeet: fast. That was September 21.

“I went to bed that night with three followers,” she says, and one of them was herself. But by the morning … “Ten followers. And by noon, I had 150. I was like, oh, we might be onto something here.”

What happened next, she didn’t see coming.

“I grew up in Windsor, Colorado, which is where Cory Gardner spent his Election Day morning, actually.” Now, she lives in the liberal bastion of Fort Collins. But Windsor… “It’s like the heart of Weld County, which is very, very red—always.” (Of note, Weld County, where Windsor is located, did not yeet Cory Gardner.)

Growing up, she was a blue sheep in a red flock. “It’s classic small-town Colorado. But politically, I was always a little bit of an outcast. I distinctly remember in second grade for the Bush–Gore election, I wrote in Ralph Nader. I was part of the problem from an early age.”


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With so much at stake this year, she couldn’t risk writing in Nader or anyone else. So she wrote in meme format, instead.

When she started the account, she was really nervous. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say Cory Gardner was a tyrant, he was just a bad fit for the state. But I was reading an article, probably a couple of days before I started the account, about how satire is the best way to take down a tyrant. It was in the New York Times. Obviously, it was in the context of Donald Trump.”

She was also ready to fight. “Hey, it’s protected under the First Amendment, but, um, there’s not really a good way to respond to it.”

Her following grew, exponentially. “Once the account started snowballing out of my control, I switched it from a personal page to a business page. So I have access to all my data. Fifty-five percent of the audience that I had is between 18 and 34, which is the age group that doesn’t really turn out to vote. It was nice to be able to make voting feel like a cool thing or another insider-Colorado thing.”

Her insider-Colorado magnum opus: “The Rosie the Tarantula one got a lot more traction than I thought it would. That was actually a suggestion from one of my friends from college … I figured I would throw it up.”


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What’s scarier, spiders or constituents? (📸: Bill Clark. Thanks, @lnthurman!!)

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“I mean, it is a super niche deep cut, you know. But, I distinctly remember being in second grade and taking a class field trip [to the Butterfly Pavilion] and everybody got their ‘I held Rosie the Tarantula’ stickers. It was like a currency to the eight-year-olds.”

She told 5280 she did, in fact, hold Rosie. “I would do it again,” she said.

But her greatest achievement would become her greatest controversy: Cory Gardner did hold Rosie. Just like her. “It absolutely blew up to the point that, uh, the Butterfly Pavilion actually commented on the post … they were like, she’s a bipartisan spider.”


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You worry me, you worry me, you worry meeee.

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But it didn’t take long for things to start looking up again for @yeetcorygardner. “Robin Hickenlooper actually messaged me a picture of that meme and said, ‘Nathaniel [Rateliff] just sent this to John.’ That was a fun one.”

Hickenlooper’s staff got wind of the account, too. “Someone from Hickenlooper’s campaign reached out to me and they said, ‘If we made a video of John Hickenlooper reading some of these memes and reacting to them, would you post it?’ And I was like, sure,” she recalls. “They said, ‘OK, we’ll see if we can get him on board.’ And then like two hours later, they sent me the video [the one posted at the top of this story] and they said John Hickenlooper already knew about this account and really likes it.”

The yeet movement spread.

“I had a lot of people reach out to me wanting to start one for their state. And so we have, um, @boomermcsally in Arizona. There’s @soft.hands.steve, about Steve Daines and Montana. There was @thomtillisthoughts, @accordingtojoni about Joni Ernst. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but, it was interesting to see how people use this format to apply it to their own state.”

Now that it’s all over, the woman behind @yeetcorygardner is feeling good. “I’m very proud of what happened in Colorado and feel very lucky to have been able to play even the smallest part in that.”

In a follow-up email, when asked about the account’s future, she said she plans to set it aside—for now, “until Cory Gardner decides to run for president :)”.


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YEET. COMPLETE. Thanks for voting, thanks for supporting, thanks for laughing along, thanks for sharing your ideas and letting me meme them. And a big thanks to @kindakylie.v for knocking another one out of the park. To @johnhickenlooper: congratulations. Make Colorado proud. And to everyone else: I’ll see you all soon—rendezvous at Casa Bonita. My treat. YCG

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Haley Gray
Haley Gray
Haley Gray is a Boulder-based freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in 5280, Roads and Kingdoms, Boulder Magazine, and the Albuquerque Journal.