NAACP state head: Missouri rodeo clown committed a ‘hate crime’ by wearing Obama mask

Katie McHugh | Associate Editor

President of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP Mary Ratliff claimed in a radio interview Thursday that the Obama mask-donning rodeo clown committed a hate crime, CBS St. Louis reports.

“I think that a hate crime occurred,” Mary Ratliff said to KXNT Radio. “I think a hate crime occurs when you use a person’s race to depict who they are and to make degrading comments, gestures, et cetera, against them.”

Ratliff’s definition stands in stark contrast to the actual federal hate crimes statue, which would require rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling to “willfully cause bodily injury” to President Barack Obama with “fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device.”

Ratliff did not indicate if Gessling had attempted to attack the president with fire or other weaponry, but did say the Secret Service should investigate the matter nonetheless.

“When taxpayer money is utilized to discredit and be disrespectful to our president, whether he be black, white, Hispanic, Latina … it is an outrage,” she continued.

Ratliff said she believes the “mean” rodeo act requires that the Department of Justice dedicate more taxpayer dollars into investigating Gessling’s feelings about Obama.

“With all of the hateful and mean things that are happening and happened in Missouri here at the rodeo, we believe that the Justice Department should look into the discriminatory practices against our sitting African-American president,” Ratliff said. “In this country, discrimination is still illegal.”

Ratliff previously accused Gessling and the Missouri State Fair of “inciting violence” against Obama.

“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,” Ratliff said in a statement on Tuesday, reports.

Ratliff’s comments are the most recent chapter in the rodeo clown saga that has been the source of much controversy in the past week. Gessling’s Saturday night performance sparked a hysterical national outcry. The Missouri State Fair declared the show was an “unconscionable stunt” and sentenced every clown in the rodeo’s association to sensitivity training while slamming Gessling with a lifetime ban.

Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement through his press secretary calling the performance “disrespectful and offensive.” Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman, however, invited Gessling to perform in Texas.

Supporters of Gessling have filed a White House petition calling on Obama to pledge personal support to the clown, while a friendly Facebook fan page has earned over 70,000 likes. Gessling himself issued an apology for the act on his personal Facebook page, but the post has been removed.

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