Has parodying the president become a punishable offense in pockets of the United States? The Missouri State Fair has imposed a lifetime ban on a rodeo clown whose routine during a state fair rodeo included a depiction of President Obama (a second clown wearing an Obama mask) as the target of an angry bull. Additionally, the Missouri State Fair Commission has ordered that all rodeo clowns for future fairs undergo “sensitivity training” to prevent further such “unconscionable” situations.
According to news reports rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling, who provided the voice for the slapstick routine, will be disallowed from performing at the state fair ever again. “Fair officials say they're also reviewing whether to take any action against the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, the contractor responsible for [the August 10] event,” reported the Associated Press.
The routine featured the clown in the Obama mask standing like a mannequin on the rodeo ground, with Gessling asking the crowd if they wanted to see “Obama run down by a bull,” reported the AP. On a YouTube video of the incident, Gessling can be heard warning “Obama” that a runaway bull is going to “get ya, get ya, get ya!”
The incident sparked a firestorm of criticism from Missouri politicos — mostly Democrats — who condemned the action as racist and insensitive. Missouri Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill called the comedy routine “shameful” and “unacceptable,” saying that the “young Missourians who witnessed this stunt learned exactly the wrong lesson about political discourse — that somehow it’s ever acceptable to, in a public event, disrespect, taunt, and joke about harming the President of our great nation. Missouri is better than this and I expect someone to be held accountable.”
The Democratic conclave in Jackson County, Missouri, was representative of the state party's posture over the incident, calling it “a show as ugly [as] any you could see.... Disrespecting the President is one thing; whipping a crowd into a frenzy is another. Encouraging physical harm to the President, whatever the party, is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.”
Even Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder sounded off, tweeting that the State Fair “celebrates Missouri and our people. I condemn the actions disrespectful to POTUS the other night. We are better than this.”
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Photo of clown wearing Obama mask at Missouri State Fair: AP Images