Mark Ficken, president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association and a fair announcer caught up in a major scandal this weekend, is pushing back against reports that he made offensive remarks about a bull running down a rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask. As we reported this morning, the Missouri State Fair -- a taxpayer-funded event -- is facing national scrutiny and condemnation from Democrat and Republican leaders in the state after reports surfaced of an individual wearing an Obama clown and an announcer repeatedly screaming about a bull attacking him. The crowd, according to footage and the testimony of at least one attendee, loved it.
Ficken, who is also the Boonville school superintendent, has hired an attorney to defend against the onslaught of media reports and is arguing that his sole reference to the clown was this single statement: "Watch out for that bull Obama!"
"This is a man who was doing nothing more than expressing words of caution," Albert Watkins, the St. Louis-based attorney now representing Ficken, tells Daily RFT.
See also: - State Fair: Clown Wears Obama Mask, Speaker Suggests Bull Attack, Crowd Goes Wild - Missouri State Fair Rodeo Clown Identified, Permanently Banned From Performing - Missouri Clown Tuffy Gessling Gets Huge Online Following After Obama Mask Stunt
Here's video footage that we uploaded, taken by attendee Perry Beam, a Higginsville resident who first spoke up about the incident.
Watkins says that the comments heard in this footage came from a "rogue rodeo clown" and not from his client. Reports attributing the continuous remarks to Ficken are inaccurate, he says.
"This is a classic example of what is happening in our news circles today," Watkins says. "The media is a very, very vital part of our democracy...and has a duty and obligation to the public to make sure they get the story straight."
In this case, many news outlets did not, Watkins says. (Daily RFT included a reference to Ficken's name based on a report from PoliticMo, the first outlet we saw identifying the announcer last night).
"This story is replicated ad nauseum on the Internet...and tens of millions of people in seconds are exposed to a falsehood," he says. "It's proliferated to such an extent...it's nothing short of a media gang bang."
Watkins says Ficken just wants to clear his name and set the record straight. "He's mortified...wondering whether his future as a superintendent of the public school systems is in jeopardy."
He adds, "My client's priority here is not to ring the litigation bell and try to win the lottery. His goal is just to make it right."
Kari Mergen, a spokeswoman with the state fair, confirms to Daily RFT that Ficken was the announcer but can't offer any comment on who made the remarks in question. She also has no information to share about the identity of the individual in the Obama mask. We've sent a message to the cowboy association as well and will update if we hear back.
Here's a statement the cowboy association posted on its website:
The Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association would like to extend a sincere apology for the inappropriate act during the Bull Riding at the Saturday performance of the MRCA Rodeo. The MRCA Board of Directors and over 600 members do not condone nor approve of this sort of activity. The MRCA Board of Directors is dealing with the situation firmly and quickly as this type of behavior will not be tolerated. The Sport of Rodeo is not meant to be a political platform. We are taking measures by training and educating our contract acts to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
All Members of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association are very proud of our Country and our President. Once again our apologies to the Missouri State Fair and the fans who were in attendance and we hope to see you at another rodeo soon.
And here's the full press announcement Watkins sent out to reporters this morning:
A beleaguered school superintendent and president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, Mark Ficken, has retained legal counsel to "set the story straight" relative to the rogue rodeo clown who appeared unscripted Saturday at the Missouri State Fair. News networks and media outlets have picked up the story which erroneously attributed disrespectful commentary to Ficken who was serving in his twentieth year as the announcer of the bull riding competition at the fair.
The clown, donning an Obama mask, was wearing a microphone at the time of his unscripted appearance. Ficken had no advance knowledge of the incident. "He was as surprised as anyone with the appearance of an Obama-masked rodeo clown," said Albert S. Watkins, legal counsel for Mr. Ficken. Ficken's sole reference to the clown was to say, "Watch out for that bull Obama!"
"Unfortunately, in this day of internet piling on, once an outlet published an incorrect statement of facts, the erroneous attribution to my client of comments made by a rogue rodeo clown went viral. My client is now being inundated by responsive and retaliatory action, all of which is premised on a false recital of facts," said Watkins. "It is respectfully suggested that the media needs to cut out the bull and get the facts straight," added Watkins.
"My client is a respected member of the community, a responsible educator and a man deeply committed to protecting his good name. We are closely evaluating the scope and viability of alternative course of legal action to remedy the situation," concluded Watkins.