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Farmer at Missouri State Fair: "Obama is a Muslim trying to destroy the country. I've got no respect for him".
SEDALIA, Mo. — As some people at the Missouri State Fair see it, the rodeo incident last weekend in which a ringleader taunted a clown wearing a mask of President Obama and played with his lips as a bull charged after him was neither racist nor disrespectful.
It was a joke, they said, overblown by a news media that’s hypersensitive to any possible slight against the nation’s first black president. They said the hooting and hollering from the crowd that night was because of a fundamental dislike of the president.
“I’ve got no respect for him,” said Virgil Henke, 65, a livestock farmer who explained his distaste for Obama with several falsehoods about his background: “Why, he’s destroyed this country. How much freedom have we lost? I don’t care whether it’s a black man in office, but we have to have a true-blooded American. I think he is Muslim and trying to destroy the country, catering to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”
The rodeo incident and the clown at the center of it have become the latest illustration of racial divisions that continue to surface nearly five years into Obama’s presidency.
A three-minute amateur video of the rodeo act was picked up by news outlets worldwide. Democratic and Republican elected officials in Missouri quickly condemned the incident, saying it was offensive and inappropriate at a taxpayer-funded event with children in attendance. Asked about it Wednesday, a White House spokesman said that it was not one of Missouri’s “finer moments.”
But there has also been a backlash on the right, with conservative radio talk show hosts and writers dismissing the act as a joke no different from jabs aimed at other presidents. Moreover, they said, the president’s supporters ought to learn how to take a joke rather than seeing everything as racially motivated. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), who tweeted that liberals are “thin-skinned and totalitarian,” has invited the clown to perform at rodeos in Texas.
There is a long history of mocking politicians at rodeos, and clowns have donned masks of other presidents as part of their acts. But James Staab, a political science professor at the University of Central Missouri, said last week’s incident “goes beyond the pale — they’re talking about physical injury and racial stereotypes.”
Whether the scene at the state fair was meant merely as mockery or something more sinister, there was no room for nuance among a dozen fairgoers interviewed Wednesday. There was near universal agreement that the incident was all in good fun, and disapproval of the president crossed into a deep, personal hatred, often tinted in racial terms.
“I was raised to think the blacks were bad; I’m not gonna lie. We lived on one side of the tracks, and they lived on the other,” said Margaret Abercrombie, 68, who is white and grew up along the Mississippi River in Sikeston, Mo.
Abercrombie said she voted twice for Obama but didn’t find anything wrong with the rodeo act. As she rode her motorized wheelchair to the grandstands at the rodeo arena, which on this day hosted tractor pull races, Abercrombie said the anti-Obama sentiments she encounters are based on race.
“You hear the farmers here, they just don’t like him because he’s black,” Abercrombie said. Pointing across the fairgrounds to the cattle barns, she added, “I’m surprised they ain’t got a cow over there named Obama.”
The Wednesday crowd at the fair, which lasts 11 days in remote Sedalia, was overwhelmingly white. Some vendors played right-wing talk radio from boom boxes at their tents. One vendor sold “rebel pride” hats emblazoned with Confederate flags for $8 each. Another, who would only be identified as “Dennis the Sticker Dude” because he was afraid of government retaliation, hawked car decal stickers featuring a cartoon boy urinating on Obama.
Henke hesitated at first to provide his name, fearing that if he publicly criticized Obama the Internal Revenue Service would “be up my [backside] and at my door.”
Henke said he sometimes surfs the Internet for Web sites making fun of Obama and his family. For instance, he said, one site he looks at compares “Obama’s wife to a monkey — they have the same expression. The media makes it all hate. I don’t hate a black person. It’s just funny.”
At the rodeo here last Saturday night, a clown wearing an Obama mask stood on the arena’s dirt floor, propped up like a straw man with the appearance that a broom stick was going up his backside. A second clown called him “ya big goober.” Before letting the bull loose to charge at the clown with the Obama mask, the second clown provided live narration over the loudspeakers:
“Obama, they’re coming for you this time.”
“He’s going to getcha, getcha, getcha.”
“Yahoo! We’re gonna smoke Obama.”
In the stands, Perry Beam was so sickened by the scene he began recording it.
“It reminded me of a [Ku Klux] Klan rally,” Beam said. “It had that hateful aspect. It was the way they cheered, the anger in it. . . . You can disagree with a government policy, but that doesn’t prompt you to put a stick up his [backside] and incite the crowd to say how many of you want to see him be trampled by a bull. To wish that on somebody is hateful.”
Beam’s video led Missouri’s elected officials to strongly condemn the act. Mark Ficken, the rodeo announcer, resigned as president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association — although Ficken’s lawyer, Albert Watkins, said it was actually the ringleader clown, Tuffy Gessling, who made the inflammatory remarks.
“Sort of like Madonna, he wears a little headset with a live microphone,” Watkins said of Gessling. “What was funny and cute morphed into an off-color and inappropriate series of comments that basically everybody who has a room temperature IQ and above will agree were inappropriate and racist.”
Missouri State Fair officials permanently banned Gessling from future performances. On Wednesday, an apology was issued on a Twitter account that appeared to be from Gessling, saying, “Thank you to the folks that are in support of what I did, and to those I have offended I am sorry I never ment [sic] any harm.”
Gessling could not be reached for comment, but one of his cousins, Dennis Gessling, defended him in an interview. “They’re just blowing it way out of proportion — the mainstream media, the leftists, you name it,” he said. “He doesn’t mean any disrespect. . . . He is a comedian for the rodeo, and he was there to entertain the crowd. It is no different than a Jay Leno, a Jimmy Fallon, a Conan O’Brien.”
On Facebook, fans began a support group for Gessling. It had more than 60,000 “likes” by late Thursday. One organizer posted that Gessling is grateful for the support and is trying to arrange some public appearances.
The incident has been a flash point for Obama’s supporters as well. Ficken, who is superintendent of the nearby Boonville School District, has received several threats, some extremely violent and personal, his lawyer said.
To Beam, the racist element of the rodeo act was obvious. “If you’re a white man in a black mask in a former slaveholding state with a broom lodged in your rectum and you’re playing with your lips, you will be confused with a racist,” Beam said. “Had I been black, I would’ve been scared for my life.”
Kenneth Robinson, 58, a hospital clerical worker, was among the many fairgoers who leapt to Gessling’s defense.
“It was just a guy making fun of the president, like everybody else does,” Robinson said. “Whether he’s black, white, green or purple, he’s the president, and he’s got to know when he goes in that position people are gonna make fun of him.”
Bernadette Brock, 67, who was square-dancing at the fair, said the rodeo incident was nothing compared with anti-Obama displays at lower-profile events.
“Honey,” Brock said, “if you had been in some of our counties down here, this was mild.”
- We need some sort of plague that only kills old white people. Stat.
- [quote] I think he is Muslim and trying to destroy the country, catering to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
If he feels so strongly about it, this man should round up the rest of his family and go over to Egypt and fight the Muslim Brotherhood.
We need to stay the hell out of Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. The Scandinavian countries do and they don't have a problem
- I've called Bush and Cheney every name in the book and they deserve that and more. Seriously, should we be worried about what a bunch of Neanderthals think and say?
I mean, if I were able to kill them with a look, they'd be dead but that's not going to happen.
I hope to Allah that's meant to be satirical.
- I want to move to Sweden...the rape capital of Europe.
- I can't get worked up that some Joe Blow in rural Missouri doesn't respect President Obama. Sorry.
Not every single person in the entire country is required to respect Obama, any more than every person was required to respect the two Bushes or Clinton or Reagan or Carter or Ford or Nixon or LBJ or JFK. Every single president we have ever had, or will ever have, gets disrespected by someone. Unless this farmer is being overtly racist (and he really doesn't sound like he is), this is a complete non-story.
- Yes, r3, we should care what these imbeciles think and say because they vote!
- The irony is that douchebag farmer no doubt gets millions in subsidies from the Obama govt. to NOT grow certain products.
He should be shoved into a thresher.
- [quote]"I don’t care whether it’s a black man in office, but we have to have a true-blooded American. I think he is Muslim and trying to destroy the country, catering to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”
Yes, Obama caters to the Muslim Brotherhood by allowing the Egyptian army to depose the Muslim president and slaughter his supporters.
The thing about racists is that they're uneducated idiots.
- Gawd, when the crazed right wingers yammer on about slashing Social Security and ending and privatizing Medicare, sometimes I pray that they would!
Sixty-five and on both programs, and likely receiving farm subsidy money. I'd love to hear his old bitch ass crying when all that "freedom" he thinks he lost came around to bit him in the leg. What a sick loser!
- [quote]"I don’t care whether it’s a black man in office, but we have to have a true-blooded American. I think he is Muslim and trying to destroy the country,
Because there isn't a single American Muslim in this country who pays more in taxes or is more educated than this stupid, worthless hick.
This low-life who is probably on the dole is the true American while the immigrants and children of immigrants don't work their asses off.
- Let's investigate the farm subsidies. If he gets them we can ask him when he's going to give the money back.
- Is that Henke guy not the definition of a "cracker"? A worthless white person who grossly overestimates his/her own value, placing it far above people of other races (especially black), based on the imagined superiority of pink skin. He probably doesn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, but a least he's not a "ni*ger."
- ignorant and more ignorant
- Next thing you'll have Lorelai Gilmore saying "I hate George Bush!!" on "Gilmore Girls", or "That's My Bush!" on Comedy Central.
Or Chevy Chase portraying Gerald Ford as a clown to damage him politically.
Can the Yellow Dog Democrats acquire another setting? A second one?
- Please, please, please! Send all those fuckers to Egypt and see who can kill them the quickest! I don't care who kills the idiots, as long as someone does.
- Gerald Ford didn't need Chevy Chase to damage him politically. He did it all on his own.
- I think Americans should be able to lampoon their president from time to time, it's just part of the gig. However, if you notice or have received some kind of email or facebook thing from some conservative fucktard, it's always racial. Whether it's the Obamas are growing a watermelon patch at the White House or they've turned the White House into section 8 housing, or various degrees of fried chicken stereotypes and pictures of Michelle as a gorilla or a monkey. So there is lampooning and just downright disrespectful and racist.
- "Next thing you'll have Lorelai Gilmore saying 'I hate George Bush!!' on 'Gilmore Girls', or 'That's My Bush!' on Comedy Central.
Or Chevy Chase portraying Gerald Ford as a clown to damage him politically."
Right, R15? Those statements and acts were also racist! They are not different than what happened in Missouri!
Wait a second...
- R17 Regardless, Cornelius now boasts that he takes credit for undermining Ford, which was his primary intent, not comedy.
Did you expect that the vitriolic animus and scorn that permeated the opposition's attitude to W was a one-off, rather than precedent?
Good luck repacking that box, Pandora.
- R15 is a Freeper who, on another thread, tried to blame Russian antigay laws on Obama.
- R20 Can you re-post that again, this time in English? And who the hell is Cornelius?
- r20 is so unbelievably pretentious he expects you to recognize that "Cornelius" is Chevy Chase (Cornelius is his real name).
- Thanks R23. Now I get it. R20 is one of those gullible fools who thinks because someone takes credit for something, that automatically makes it true. I guess that crazy old man on my block who takes credit for being the first man to walk on the moon must be telling me the truth.
- R21 Blaming Putin's Fuck You to the West on the appearance of weakness, yep.
Go call Putin a freeper and bitch about cracka hayseeds.
Bring a knife to a gunfight while your at it. That'll help the Rossiya gays.
Man, when it was journalists targeted in Russia, I remember the DL abuzz. About Anderson Cooper's Adriatic itinerary.
But now, NOW...we're switching to Belvedere. @@
- R23 Not THAT unbelievably pretentious as to name a child Cornelius, tho
- R19 Next thing you know those country crackas will have a decapitated head in the image of a POTUS they hold in contempt on HBO's "Game Of Thrones", right?
But as long as you don't have reportage so cherrypicked it should come with a "Maraschino" label to disqualify dissent as racism, all's fair in love and war!
- Sucks that we can't hate him for the reasons he should be hated (NSA/PRISM, Guantanamo, Wall St Bailout, Drones, Obamacare as big insurance scam, convenient religiosity), because of the nincompoops who hate him for his race.
- Do redneck Republicans believe anything that isn't a fallacy? Their entire worldview is based on delusions.
- Was he still President when that happened, R27? Was it a racist scene? No? You're an arch-conservative moron, dear.
- R27 is mentally disabled. Can you imagine the Jabba the Hutt doppelgänger who squeezed him out of her bacon-slick thighs?
- R28 Expecting the current President to be treated differently than the last 44, because his father was Kenyan, isn't being colorblind.
In the Internet age political rhetoric has become nasty, vicious, and omnipresent. When W was in power, the left was parroting the "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" line.
Now that we have an administration more Nixonian than Nixon, why,...dissent?!? Racism! Those that in 2005/2008 had the graces of Cosa Nostra henchmen? Now they find Marquis of Queensbury rules intolerable. HANDLE WITH CARE,or you're a Ku Klux Klanner (like Robert Byrd)
That well is done used up, son. When you have to demonize the messenger because you don't want to address the message, when all you have are straw men arguments, you're on your heels.
Where was all this handwringing when Condoleeza Rice was pilloried with the vilest racist, sexist attacks?
Oh, right. Situational ethics, selective outrage.
R29 R31 Reaction formation much?
- [quote]Obamacare as big insurance scam,
Which is why individual insurance rates in California have dropped approximately 20% in anticipation of the open market comparisons available among the 13 certified competitive insurers in the state. There's an open marketplace available now on the internet via Cover California which provides competitive information about insurance rates for all types of income and family sizes.
Individual insurance premiums in New York state have dropped by 50% as the result of a competitive marketplace (What is more Capitalistic than that, could you please enlighten?) It's worth noting that these are states that are serious about implementing ACA, not places like Louisiana or N. Carolina that seem to be invested in keeping its poor populations unhealthy, uneducated, and as far disenfranchised from the mainstream as they can get.
One has to love the institutional enforcement of uninformed, misdirected Christian Darwinism. But they will reap what they have sown and in great abundance, luckily for the rest of us. They've only planted the seeds of their own demise, abundantly fertilized by their Christian piety and hypocrisy. They are ultimately continuing to turn people against their Lord Jesus Christ and creating a widespread understanding of modern Christian hypocrisy and greed that it is completely entwined with the modern Republican party.
Please elaborate on how Obamacare is a "scam," R28. Do you live in one of those states that is screaming and dragging its heels about implementation? Tell us where you live and your fellow DLers will funnel unadulterated information to you.
You go R33 !!!
- Right. You know how Romney was talking at that fancy dinner about how there were some people that he could never reach, no matter what? Farmer Brown here is that, in reverse.
Pass over him and move on. Think of it like you are climbing Everest. They will tell you that if you stop to try to help someone who has fallen to the side of the trail that all you will do is get yourself killed too.
Just work as hard as you can to educate the next generation so that they're not brain dead buffoons like this guy. The Republicans understand this too. That's why you hear about proposals to abolish everything in the federal government having to do with education.
- That should have been "Covered California." Check out the website.