On Tuesday, a rodeo clown who wore a mask of President Obama at the Missouri State Fair was banned for life. The clown had asked the crowd if they wanted to see Obama run down by a bull. Fair organizers quickly dubbed the stunt “unconscionable,” and looked to cancel their contract with the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association. According to a statement from the Missour State Fair Commission, the performance was “inappropriate and not in keeping with the Fair’s standards.” One witness described the scene as “some kind of Klan rally.”
The announcer at the event, Mark Ficken, is attempting to clear his name from accusations that he asked if the crowd wanted to see Obama run down. “Unfortunately, in this day of internet piling on, once an outlet published an incorrect statement of facts, the erroneous attribution to my client of comments made by a rogue rodeo clown went viral,” Ficken’s lawyer said. Meanwhile, the clown, identified as one Tuffy Gessling, posted on Facebook: “I am sorry, I never ment [sic] to offend anyone I ment [sic] no disrespect to anyone for the joke or jokes I may have said at the rodeo, once agian [sic] I never ment [sic] to offend or hurt anyone’s feelings.” Missouri State Fair’s board says that rodeo clowns and other contractors must now undergo sensitivity training.
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) expressed his amazement that “in 2013 such hatred, intolerance and disrespect towards the President of the United States could take place at the Missouri State Fair… Our fair is supposed to showcase the best of Missouri, instead, it showed an ugly face of intolerance and ignorance to the world.” Rep. Steve Webb (D-MO) added, “Sometimes apologies just won’t do. While I do not believe this represents all of rural Missouri, the racial undertones of a taunted rodeo clown dressed as our nation’s first black president is what the nation woke up to this morning. It’s time for all of us, from both rural and urban areas, to fight this type of sentiment with a united front. Leaders of this state need to do more than accept a pressured apology.” Webb wants Gov. Jay Nixon (D-MO) to cancel a ham breakfast at the State Fair.