Battle lines harden in furor over rodeo clown who wore Obama mask [VIDEO]

Katie McHugh Associate Editor
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A White House spokesman slammed a Missouri state fair and a Texas congressman accused liberals of trying to “crush dissent” Wednesday, as the hubbub over a rodeo clown’s harmless antics continued to tear apart American society.

Rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling faces a lifetime ban from the Missouri State Fair after wearing a mask of President Obama during a Saturday night rodeo. All other clowns in the Missouri Rodeo Clown Association have been sentenced of sensitivity training, the Washington Times reports. The rodeo’s announcer also stepped down earlier this week.

But with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People lobbying for a federal clown crackdown, a backlash has begun. Republican Texas Rep. Steve Stockman Wednesday announced an invitation for Gessling to come and perform in the Lone Star State. (Related: Stockman invites controversial rodeo clown to Texas)

A pro-Gessling faction of sorts has also developed in social and traditional media, with many clown defenders pointing out that prominent entertainers including Pearl Jam and Madonna incorporated apparent threats to President George W. Bush into their routines.

“Hey, I know I’m a clown,” Gessling said during Saturday’s show. “He [Obama] is just running around acting like one. Doesn’t know he is one.”

Gessling apologized Tuesday on his personal Facebook page, but the post is no longer visible.

The Missouri State Fair Commission released a statement apologizing for the act Monday, calling the performance an “unconscionable stunt.”

“The performance by one of the rodeo clowns at Saturday’s event was inappropriate and disrespectful, and does not reflect the opinions or standards of the Missouri State Fair,” the statement read. “We strive to be a family friendly event and regret that Saturday’s rodeo badly missed that mark.”

The commission also reaffirmed the lifetime ban with a vehement rejoinder: “The Missouri State Fair Commission unanimously approved a motion ratifying the action already taken by the Fair Director to permanently ban this rodeo clown from ever participating or performing at the Missouri State Fair again.” (RELATED: TheDC Trawler: The #1 issue facing Americans today: Rodeo clowns)

Rodeo announcer Mark Ficken resigned from his position as president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Association late Monday. Ficken may still be in jeopardy, however — he’s the superintendent of the local Boonville School District, which is hiring an outside investigator to find out if he or any other district engaged in “inappropriate conduct,” the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.

“At the conclusion of the investigation, if it is discovered that district employees participated in the offensive conduct or remarks, then the district will take appropriate action,” a statement released by the district said. “The district will not tolerate racially inflammatory statements by its district employees.”

Fickens, meanwhile, has hired attorney Albert Watkins, who says his client lives in fear of losing his job. “He has no political agenda, no desire to be in the limelight, and his media savvy is zero,” Watkins said. “He is in Boonville right now shaking like a small dog passing razor blades.”

Saturday night’s events sparked a statewide conflagration and attracted widespread attention. Missouri’s chapter of the NAACP issued a statement Tuesday demanding that the Department of Justice and the Secret Service investigate the performance, reports.

“The activities at the Missouri State Fair targeting and inciting violence against our President are serious and warrant a full review by both the Secret Service and the Justice Department,” NAACP State President Mary Ratliff said.

Condemnation from state and national politicians came swiftly as well. Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder tweeted his disapproval of the show on Tuesday.

In a press gaggle Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to say whether the president had any reaction to the national tragedy, but volunteered that “as a native Missourian, it was certainly not one of the finer moments for our state, and not the way I like to see our state depicted in the news.”

Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement through his press sectary: “The governor agrees that the performance was disrespectful and offensive, and does not reflect the values of Missourians or the State Fair.” Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill called the performance “shameful.”

But Stockman’s invitation to Gessling indicated a rising tide of support for the clown, and more broadly for the freedom of clowns to mock the head of state — a right jokesters enjoyed even under medieval kings and Renaissance popes.

Facebook fan page “Support Tuffy Gessling, Professional Rodeo Entertainer” has garnered over 34,000 likes so far, a few thousand more likes than the Missouri State Fair fan page itself. Many users posted angry messages on the State Fair’s page after its punishment of Gessling.

Supporters also created a White House petition appealing to Obama to “defend the ability of clowns to protect the cowboys and entertain the crowd,” which has a little over 400 signatures.

Gessling is not the first rodeo clown to get in hot water over an Obama routine. In 2012 the Creston Classic Rodeo in California was brought to a standstill when a performer made an off-color joke about First Lady Michelle Obama.

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