Missouri State Fair Scandal: Boonville Schools to Hire Investigator, NAACP Wants DOJ Action


Rodeo clown with Obama mask. - COURTESY OF PERRY BEAM
  • Courtesy of Perry Beam
  • Rodeo clown with Obama mask.

It's been four days since the controversial performance of a Missouri State Fair rodeo clown dressed as Obama -- but the condemning statements and the calls for investigations continue to roll in.

Yesterday we reported that Mark Ficken, the announcer during the stunt who alleges he was not behind the act, resigned as president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association. Ficken, his attorney says, is trying to focus his energy on his real job as superintendent of the Boonville School District.

School officials, however, now say they are in the process of hiring an outside investigator to determine if any district employees were "involved in the inappropriate conduct." Meanwhile, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is calling for federal investigations into the actions at the fair on Saturday.

See also: - Mark Ficken, State Fair Announcer in Obama Rodeo Scandal, Says Reports Are Wrong - Missouri State Fair Rodeo Clown Identified, Permanently Banned From Performing - State Fair Controversy: Mark Ficken Resigns As Rodeo Cowboy Association President - State Fair Clown Tuffy Gessling Gets Huge Online Following After Obama Stunt

In case you haven't been keeping up with the drama, a quick recap: On Sunday, the story of a Saturday evening rodeo clown performance went viral, sparking national scrutiny and immediate criticisms from Democrats and Republicans. Photos and videos -- which we published here -- show a rodeo clown in an Obama mask accompanied by an announcer asking if the crowd wanted to see him run down by a bull. And the crowd apparently loved the skit. The clown, who goes by the name Tuffy Gessling, has been permanently banned from the fair, which is a state-run, taxpayer-funded event. The clown has also posted a short apology.

Ficken says he did not make controversial comments attributed to him, but simply said, "Watch out for that bull Obama!" Regardless, he has stepped down as head of the cowboy association, which puts on the rodeo show (and whose contract is currently being reviewed by state officials).

Ficken is not, it seems, in the clear yet. The statement from the Boonville R-1 School District -- sent to Daily RFT by board President Charles Melkersman this morning -- does not directly name Ficken, but says that the district "will not tolerate racially inflammatory statements by its...employees."

Tuffy Gessling. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • via Facebook
  • Tuffy Gessling.

The district is hiring an "outside investigator" and at the conclusion of the investigation, "if it is discovered that District employees participated in the offensive conduct or remarks, then the District will take appropriate action," says the statement, full version below.

The NAACP in its own statement -- published yesterday on OzarksFirst.com -- says the bull-riding stunt warrants investigations by the Secret Service and the United States Department of Justice. From NAACP State President Mary Ratliff:

The activities at the Missouri State Fair targeting and inciting violence against our President are serious and warrant a full review by both the Secret Service and the Justice Department. Incidents involving individuals acting out with extreme violent behavior in movie theaters, schools, churches, political appearances, and outdoor events in general speaks volume to the irresponsible behavior of all the parties involved with the incendiary events at the Missouri State Fair.

Governor Jay Nixon -- who is responsible for holding relevant parties accountable, critics say -- addressed the controversy at a recent news conference with reporters. He says the actions were "inappropriate and offensive" and that his office of administration is reviewing the contracts in question.

But he says the fair must go on: "The Missouri State Fair is an important part of the traditions of our state and when people mess with that tradition, certainly it upsets us.... I'm not one to, because somebody does something insensitive or offensive, that we should back off on what's been a long tradition for the fair." You can watch the short remarks here, via KWMU (90.7 FM):

Here's the full statement from Boonville School District, followed by videos of the stunt and some reactions from our earlier coverage:

The Boonville R-1 School District is aware of the reports regarding the inappropriate conduct that occurred at the Missouri State Fair bull riding competition this past weekend. It is unclear at this time what involvement District employees, if any, had at this non-school event. However, upon receiving these reports, the District immediately began the process of hiring an outside investigator to determine whether District employees were involved in the inappropriate conduct. At the conclusion of the investigation, if it is discovered that District employees participated in the offensive conduct or remarks, then the District will take appropriate action. The District will not tolerate racially inflammatory statements by its District employees. The District strives to maintain the highest level of standards for all of our employees, and ensures all students, parents, and patrons of the District that this matter will be thoroughly reviewed and all appropriate measures will be taken.

Continue for more reactions on the clown controversy and the original videos from the Missouri State Fair.

Here are two short clips provided by attendee Perry Beam whose account sparked the whole controversy:

And here are screenshots of commenters supporting Gessling, the clown, followed by some of the initial condemning statements.


And some Twitter support:

Here's a statement the St. Charles GOP posted on Facebook:

Tasteless, yes.


Give me a break! I love how liberals find racism around every corner. The mere fact that it gets dark at night is racist to some.

People have been lampooning public officials for years. I recall when my son was in martial arts, they had a Halloween party for the kids -- one of the older kids at the time, probably 13 or so, donned a George W. Bush mask and walked around dragging her knuckles and picking her "nose" as she paraded around proudly -- obviously a household thought process that came from her labor union member father.

I thought it was tasteless, too.

But where is Show Me Progress and Daily Kos ANY time Bill Maher takes to the airwaves? Or Chris Matthews?

These people are doing nothing to trying to draw attention to themselves.

Some of the comments on the Show Me Progress site are actually coming from public officials, one democrat state representative says, "I am both angered and disgusted by the blatant racism that was displayed at the Missouri State Fair. It is appalling that the Fair organizers would allow such a distasteful display. This is an embarrassment to the People of Missouri. I will not support future funding for an event that will condone racists acts and is so blatantly disrespectful to the President. Clearly racism is alive and well in State of Missouri. I never imagine that I would see this type of display in my state in 2013."

Another person posts, "I felt like I was at a Klan rally..."

Seriously, people?

How short your memories are ...

And from some of the outraged elected officials via our earlier coverage:

From State Rep. Caleb Rowden, another Republican:

From Tishaura Jones, St. Louis treasurer and former Democratic state rep:

From State Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, a Democrat:

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill fired off this statement in response to the hoopla last night:

If what's being reported is true, then it's shameful and it's unacceptable. The State Fair is funded by taxpayer dollars, and is supposed to be a place where we can all bring our families and celebrate the state that we love. But the young Missourians who witnessed this stunt learned exactly the wrong lesson about political discourse--that somehow it's ever acceptable to, in a public event, disrespect, taunt, and joke about harming the President of our great nation. Missouri is better than this, and I expect someone to be held accountable.

U.S. Congressman Lacy Clay:

I am amazed that in 2013, such hatred, intolerance and disrespect towards the President of the United States could take place at the Missouri State Fair.

Our fair is supposed to showcase the best of Missouri, instead, it showed an ugly face of intolerance and ignorance to the world.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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