Others called the incident “racist” and “degrading.” Some Missouri Republicans joined in condemning the performance.
To be sure, the performance of rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling and his supporting cast was tasteless. Gessling, who says he did the announcing while an unnamed colleague wore the Obama get-up, can be heard over the public address system saying, “I know I’m a clown; he’s just running around acting like one.” He can also be heard warning the Obama clown that the next bull was “gonna getcha!”
Gessling has been banned for life from performing at the state fair. Other performers at the rodeo have been ordered to take sensitivity training. Another rodeo announcer, Mark Ficken, resigned last week as president of the Missouri Cowboy Rodeo Association, a position to which he had been elected just two days previously.
But the reaction goes well beyond a mere clown purge. The Missouri branch of the NAACP has called for a federal investigation into the incident.
“I think that a hate crime occurred,” Missouri NAACP chapter President Mary Ratliff told KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. ”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.”
It’s telling that the bulk of the outrage directed against the rodeo clown is coming from Democrats, whose fellow travelers mocked President George W. Bush mercilessly throughout his term in office. Bush was depicted as a chimp, as a murderer, as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler — but this was when we were told “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Now, even gentle mockery is considered a “hate crime.”
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh compared the outrage to the Muslim fundamentalist reaction to the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. It’s an apt analogy.