“I kind of have been the designated person” to fetch the forgotten ranch, Kinney told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “One, because some people are lazy, and two, I am dedicated to this ranch.”
Armed with this dedication, nothing could keep the 22-year-old from getting to the savory dressing on Monday — not even Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and her campaign event, which had taken over the restaurant, located just minutes from the university’s campus.
In a 17-second video shared on Twitter that had been viewed more than 689,000 times as of early Wednesday, the Iowa native could be seen working her way through the people surrounding the presidential hopeful. But when Gillibrand turned to her, Kinney, much to the delight of the crowd and the Internet, blurted, “Sorry, I’m just trying to get some ranch,” as she quickly disappeared into the throng of people.
The now-viral moment has since transformed Kinney from an average Midwestern ranch aficionado to “Ranch Girl,” the Internet’s newest obsession and for some, the latest figure to emerge as a contender in 2020.
For Kinney, a communication studies, sociology and philosophy triple major, Monday night started off as it always did. She and her Bible study group had settled into a spot on the second floor of the Airliner. They ordered pizza and it came without ranch, so as per usual, Kinney was dispatched.
As she started down the stairs, she noticed that the restaurant’s entire front area was packed. Kinney could sense it was a political event, but she said she couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on. All she knew for sure was that a mass of people had blocked her only route to the kitchen — to the ranch.
“Being someone who is only 5-2, I can’t really see over most people, so I was like, I’ll just have to push through,” she said, using a method that combined sliding and wiggling. “I was just a girl on a mission to get some ranch for me and my friends.”
The video, first posted late Monday by CNN’s DJ Judd, captured Gillibrand in the middle of speaking when people near the left edge of the frame suddenly started shifting around, some looking mildly perturbed.
Out popped Kinney, less than an arm’s length away from Gillibrand.
“Sorry,” Gillibrand started to say, resting a hand gently on Kinney’s shoulder, prompting the college student to announce that she was on a quest for the condiment before vanishing from view.
“Very Iowa,” a person off-camera remarked over the crowd’s uproarious laughter.
Meanwhile, Kinney had reached the kitchen and with a bottle of ranch finally in hand, she found herself facing another dilemma: How would she get back to her table?
Kinney said she tried to avoid disrupting the event again, but soon realized that she would have to go back the way she came. This time, though, she had support for her mission.
“I came back with a squirt bottle-type thing and I raised it up and I went, ‘I got my ranch,’” she said. “And they were like, ‘Yes, a queen, she got her ranch.’”
She continued: “When I got back upstairs, everyone was like, ‘What happened down there?’ and I was like, ‘I really don’t know, man. I got the ranch though, so that’s important.’”
But Kinney wasn’t aware of the video. She had no idea she was about to become a social media sensation.
It was only when she returned to her room around midnight that she saw a Twitter notification from a friend.
“I thought he was just tweeting a meme at me, honestly, but then I clicked it and it was this video,” Kinney said. “So I go through it and I was like, ‘Wow that’s me.'”
At the time, the short clip only had about 20,000 views, Kinney said. But within a matter of hours, it was retweeted and liked by thousands, many heralding Kinney as a “hero” and calling for the #Ranch2020 campaign.
“God I love this woman, Iowa and the midwest,” tweeted comedian Jim Gaffigan.
Meghan McCain, one of the hosts of “The View,” called Kinney “a new folk hero to us all.”
Midwesterners instantly related to Kinney’s ranch plight.
The reactions, however, have not all been lighthearted, said Kinney, who has been making an effort to respond to as many people on social media as she can.
“There’s been some people, I think, they’re trying to make it a little more politically charged than what it really is,” she said, adding that some commenters claimed she snubbed Gillibrand or that Republicans are backing the “Ranch Girl” because she “doesn’t support the Democrats.”
Kinney, who identifies as “left-leaning,” said she “did not mean to disrespect” Gillibrand in any way.
“I’m literally just a girl getting some ranch, and she just happens to be in the way, and the crowd just happened to be there,” she said. “People are grasping at straws.”
Gillibrand addressed the incident in a tweet Wednesday afternoon.
“Two important things I know about Iowa: The caucus-goers are engaged and wonderful, and never get between a Midwestern and their ranch," she tweeted. “Pizza’s on me during the next trip to Iowa City, @kinney0116!”
On Twitter, Kinney, whose name is now “Hanna Kinney (Ranch Girl),” made sure to clarify her stance, tweeting, “The only political comment I will make at this time is that @TheAirlinerBar’s ranch is amazing.”
The restaurant responded to Kinney, tweeting that she would get a free cup of ranch on her next visit. But Kinney told The Post she was not impressed by the offer.
“One cup for all of this publicity Airliner? I think you could do a little better,” she joked.
Though she never expected viral fame, Kinney said she and her friends are not surprised this is how it happened.
“We’re all just kind of like, ‘If Hanna was going to become famous for something it was going to be her love of ranch,’" she said. “It’s pretty on-brand for me.”