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Meet the Rhode Islander who wants to meme President Trump right out of office

President Donald Trump listened during an event at the Whirlpool Corporation facility in Clyde, Ohio, on Thursday.Susan Walsh/Associated Press

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Happy Friday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I think “Recess” is the greatest cartoon ever made. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to

Programming note: I’m taking next week off to work on my putting (and pretend that I’m on a real vacation), so Ed Fitzpatrick will man this ship.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 19,611 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, after adding 110 new cases. The most recent test-positive rate was 2.2 percent. There were two new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,014. There were 83 people in the hospital, 11 in intensive care, and four were on ventilators.

Ryan Patrick Kelley has worked for US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee (when he was running for mayor of Cumberland), and state Senator Donna Nesselbush during the marriage equality fight several years ago.


Now he’s taking on President Trump, one meme at a time.

The Lincoln native is combining his years of political experience with a more recent run in the tech startup world to work as chief of staff at Meme2020, a network of content creators and social media influencers that is seeking to reach millennials and Gen Zers with issue-based political advertising this campaign season.

The group previously worked with Mike Bloomberg’s disastrous presidential campaign, but now it’s targeting Trump. Entrepreneur Reid Hoffman is funding Meme 2020, and the group is now partnering with the Lincoln Project, the political action committee formed by Republicans that has been producing anti-Trump commercials for months.


Kelley, who now lives in Newport, said the group has taken what it learned from producing memes for the Bloomberg campaign and poll-tested issues and ideas that staffers believe are meaningful to young voters. So far, the group has focused on voter registration and attempting to calm fears when it comes to mail ballot voting.

One meme shows a Florida mail ballot application with a text message from “FBI Agent” that reads: “You know Joe Exotic isn’t on the ballot, right?”

”One of the big takeaways was that humor is a really good way to reach people,” Kelley said.

While Kelley acknowledged that it’s fun to troll the president, he said the group’s goal is to “do our part around civil discourse and creating spaces that feel inclusive.” He said he learned from another veteran Rhode Island political hand, Bill Fischer, that it’s a good idea to show a “modicum of decorum” in the work you do.

“Do I think that the person who is opposed to all of that is Donald Trump? Absolutely,” Kelley said.


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at

⚓ How’d you spend your Thursday? I read every school district reopening plan in Rhode Island to make your life easier. Check it out here.

⚓ Rhode Island’s first virtual night court was in session Thursday, and Amanda Milkovits tuned in to chronicle a program that could help Rhode Islanders resolve their divorce cases a lot faster — and safer, during the pandemic.


⚓ East Greenwich native Sara Gideon has a slight lead over US Senator Susan Collins of Maine in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate.

⚓ This is pretty much the best deal you’re going to find all week: Two Rhode Island-based novels + a candle, chocolate, and a paper flower for $44.99.

⚓ Correction: In yesterday’s edition of Rhode Map, I wrote that school districts won’t be able to reopen if they’re in the communities with more than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents. It’s 100 new cases per 100,000.

⚓ Rhode Map readers have sent another round of Happy Birthday wishes to: Lois Quinn (90), Liz Teitz (26), Bill Bartholomew, Chris LeClair (51), Maggie Raia (9), Omar Bah, Lexi Kriss, Wayne Gage (65), Cheyenne Cazeault (24), Jeily Carreras, Kathleen O’Donnell (69), Dan Chaika, state Senator Donna Nesselbush, Daniel Pinch (64), Joy Tavano (50), Anthony Manfredi, Amanda Clarke, Julian Carroll (18), Courtney Marciano, Ralph Salvatore Sr., and Bill Felkner.


Travel: Christopher Muther tackles Maine, despite those travel restrictions.

Work: Do you have a shutdown ritual to end another work-from-home day? Steve Annear explains why they’re a good thing.

Health: Only two-thirds of Americans say they would accept a coronavirus vaccine, but some believe it would take between 70 percent and 90 percent to control the virus.


Race: My colleague Deanna Pan writes that American English is riddled with words and phrases with racist origins or undertones, and now a growing number of public and private institutions are reevaluating their reliance on language with racist connotations or history.

Baseball: Here’s an old-fashioned Dan Shaughnessy beat down of J.D. Martinez, who is off to a pretty cold start at the plate.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at

Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the incoming dean of the school of Public Health at Brown University, will host a virtual conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci today at 1 p.m.

⚓ Reminder: If you want to vote in the Sept. 8 primary, you have to be registered by Sunday.

⚓ If you’ve got a long weekend because of Victory Day, make sure you wear your mask!

⚓ The Rhode Island Department of Health has recommended closing Third Beach and Peabody’s Beach in Middletown and Easton’s Beach in Newport for swimming because of high bacteria levels.

⚓ Do you ️♥ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you on Monday.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.