Rodeo fans and conservatives by the thousands rode to the defense of a rodeo clown Tuesday, less than 72 hours after he took part in a controversial weekend skit involving a masked figure of President Barack Obama.
But the passionate support did not overcome the lingering anger over the Saturday skit at the Missouri State Fair.
The president of the group that organized the rodeo — Mark Ficken — resigned Tuesday, blaming the group’s failure to sanction the clown for his behavior.
It marked a third straight day of heated disagreement over the implications of the rodeo stunt.
“I think it’s a crock,” said rodeo trainer Lyle Sankey of Branson, referring to criticism of the skit. “Do you see as much publicity when they make fun of any conservatives? That doesn’t make the news.”
The clown announcing the event was identified as Tuffy Gessling, a veteran of state and local rodeo events.
By Tuesday evening, a Facebook page called “Support Tuffy Gessling, Professional Rodeo Entertainer” had registered more than 20,000 “likes.” Most of the comments expressed outrage at criticism of the entertainer.
Some suggested other rodeo clowns — or fair attendees — wear Obama masks at future events.
The Star could not reach Gessling for comment Tuesday. A cousin told The Associated Press that Gessling thought the skit was a joke.
In an earlier interview, posted on the website of the student newspaper at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Gessling said the use of an Obama-masked clown at the rodeo was not meant as a racial or political statement.
“Comedians all over the country have used political figures to make fun of current events,” Gessling told digitalBURG. “I never tried to be a racist or anything like that. I love all people no matter their background. I live to make people laugh.”
Gessling was the primary announcer during the skit.