Obama mask clown at Missouri rodeo leads to resignation
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association has resigned after getting flak about a State Fair event in which a rodeo clown riled up the crowd as a bull chased a masked man imitating President Barack Obama.
An attorney for rodeo announcer Mark Ficken said Tuesday that his resignation from the group is not an acknowledgment of wrongdoing on his part but rather a protest that the association has not banned the rodeo clown from its membership.
Ficken's resignation from the rodeo group comes as he tries to hold on to his job as superintendent of the Boonville School District. The school system announced Monday that it is hiring an investigator to look into whether Ficken was involved in any "inappropriate conduct" during Saturday's bull riding event at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia.
Missouri's elected officials have denounced the rodeo clown act as disrespectful to Obama.
The event featured a man wearing an Obama mask with an upside down broomstick attached to his backside who was positioned on the arena's dirt floor as if he were a dummy. Another clown drew cheers from the audience as he asked if they wanted to see "Obama run down by a bull" and made comments about the bull coming to get Obama.
Ficken's attorney said a rodeo clown wearing a microphone - not Ficken - orchestrated the act and made most of the comments about a bull charging after Obama.
The Missouri State Fair said Monday that it has permanently banned the clown from performing at the fair.
The rodeo association, which was responsible for the event, has not publicly said what - if any - action it has taken against participants.
"When he found out that the association had no plans to remove the rogue clown from its membership ranks, (Ficken) felt that the better part of valor - given what was said - was to resign from the association," said his Ficken's attorney, Albert Watkins.
Neither the State Fair nor the rodeo association has identified the rodeo clown who made the comments about Obama. But a friend and relative both identified the clown as Tuffy Gessling.
"He was at our house the next day for Sunday dinner and told us that he thought people took it wrong - that it was supposed to be a joke," said his cousin, Chrissy Gessling, of Slater, Mo.
Tuffy Gessling has not responded to Associated Press requests for an interview made through Facebook, his cousin and a friend.