Announcers at the Missouri State Fair rodeo are under fire for comments they made during a bull-riding event as participants mocked a clown dressed as President Obama. NBC's Mara Schiavacampo reports.
The rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair who on Saturday wore a mask of President Barack Obama has been permanently banned from performing at the fair ever again, according to fair officials.
During the bull-riding part of the rodeo, a clown put on a mask of Obama while someone asked an enthusiastic crowd if they wanted to see “Obama run down by a bull,” according to media reports and images posted online.
The commission unanimously voted to ratify a decision by Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe to ban the unidentified rodeo clown who donned the mask, according to a statement from officials posted on Facebook.
Officials on Monday apologized for the incident, which drew condemnation from elected officials on both sides of the aisle. They said they are reviewing whether to take any actions against the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, the contractor who organized the Saturday rodeo event.
The president of the rodeo cowboy association — who doubled as rodeo announcer at the event Saturday — said on Monday he was not aware that a “rogue rodeo clown” planned to stage the performance.
“The rodeo clown did an act that was not in the script, it was not approved by the board of directors of MCRA and it was not appropriate,” rodeo association president Mark Ficken told NBC affiliate KSHB in Kansas City, Mo. “We extend our apologies to the Missouri State Fair. Rodeo is not a political platform and will not be again. We are taking disciplinary action.”
Albert S. Watkins, Ficken’s attorney, said Monday that the unidentified clown was acting on his own volition — and that it was the clown, wearing a microphone, who made comments that energized the crowd, and not his client.
Watkins told NBC News that the only comment Fickens made that "included reference to Obama" was "Watch out for that bull, Obama!"
Jameson Hsieh / AP
This photo provided by Jameson Hsieh shows a clown wearing a mask intended to look like President Barack Obama at the Missouri State Fair.
He added that his client — a superintendent at a school district near Columbia, Missouri — had no idea that the rodeo clown planned to mock the president.
"My client is basically shaking like a small dog passing razorblades," Watkins said.
The performance was roundly criticized by Democratic and Republican leaders after videos and photos of the event circulated on social media channels.
Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, said through a spokesman that the antics were “disrespectful and offensive,” while Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, said via Twitter: “We are better than this.”
A fair-goer, Perry Beam, posted his account of the event via social media. Video footage of the stunt aired by KSHB shows the rodeo announcer saying, “We’re gonna smoke Obama, man.”
“The crowd went absolutely nuts,” Beam told KSHB.
Beam said another clown ran up to the one wearing the Obama mask and played with the lips on the mask. About 15 minutes into the performance, a bull got too close and the clown in the mask had to leave, Beam told The Associated Press.
“They mentioned the president’s name, I don’t know, 100 times. It was sickening,” Beam told the AP. “It was feeling like some kind of Klan rally you’d see on TV.”<
The Missouri State Fair, in a statement emailed to NBC News over the weekend, called the performance disrespectful and said: “We strive to be a family friendly event and regret that Saturday’s rodeo badly missed the mark.”
This story was originally published on Mon Aug 12, 2013 9:37 AM EDT