Missouri State Fair Obama Mask Stunt: Rodeo Clown Tuffy Gessling Permanently Banned

tuffy-gessling-1.jpg
via Facebook
Tuffy Gessling.
The rodeo clown behind the Obama stunt over the weekend that has sparked national outrage has been banned from ever participating in or performing at the Missouri State Fair again, officials announced this afternoon.

In case you haven't been following the drama, a rodeo clown in an Obama mask appeared at the fair in Sedalia on Saturday night and someone over the loudspeaker made repeated jokes about having a bull run over the president -- which many in the crowd apparently loved.

Now, members of the Missouri State Fair Commission have voted to ban the clown -- who reports have identified as performer Tuffy Gessling -- and the commission is also reviewing its contract with the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Associations, which puts on the rodeo show.

See also:
- Mark Ficken, Announcer in Obama Rodeo State Fair Scandal, Says Reports Are Wrong
- Clown Wears Obama Mask At Fair, Speaker Suggests Bull Attack, Crowd Goes Wild
- Missouri Clown Tuffy Gessling Gets Huge Online Following After Obama Mask Stunt

This latest action comes after national media coverage of the incident and harsh statements from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. As we reported earlier, Mark Ficken, president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association and the announcer during the stunt has lawyered up and is arguing that he did not make any of the controversial statements in question -- and was surprised to see a "rogue rodeo clown" appear with the Obama mask.

obama-mask-7.jpg
Courtesy of Perry Beam

"We're all trying to get to the bottom of this," Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat, tells Daily RFT, noting that state agriculture officials informed several lawmakers earlier today that the clown has been reprimanded, but that she wants to see more serious action taken. "Who is responsible for putting on the rodeo?.... We are trying to connect all the dots."

The state fair's latest statement says, in part (referencing a morning commission meeting):

The Commission reiterated that the statements and actions Saturday night were inappropriate and not in keeping with the Fair's standards. The Missouri State Fair apologizes for the unconscionable stunt. The Commission said the terms of the MRCA's contract to facilitate the rodeo at the Missouri State Fair are currently under review to determine additional actions that may be taken.

The cowboys association has not responded to Daily RFT's request for comment.

Missouri-State-Fair-Obama-2.jpg
Courtesy of Perry Beam

The Missouri State Fair is a taxpayer-funded, government-organized event with a commission associated with the Department of Agriculture. The fair received more than than $400,000 from taxpayers this year.

Meanwhile the clown is reportedly a man who goes by the name Tuffy Gessling, identified by Eli Yokley of PoliticMo, who tweeted this screengrab of his short Facebook apology:

rodeo-clown-apology.jpg
via Twitter / @eyokley

That post on his personal Facebook page has either been removed or is not visible to us. Gessling has not addressed the controversy on his official performer Facebook page, which is public. A spokeswoman for the state fair could not confirm his identity to Daily RFT and we've left Gessling a message as well. Other local news outlets have also identified Gessling and Newman, who is looking into the matter, mentions his name to us as well.

Newman, who sent us a statement from the House Minority Caucus condemning the act, says that Ficken (also the Boonville school superintendent) and the cowboy association should not be off the hook.

"I'm concerned that the president/ announcer/ superintendent is also connected to this in ways that he is not revealing," Newman says. "He was part of the act.... He is president of the association."

She continues, "We're looking for more answers.... The association needs to be held accountable and needs to be honest about their part in this event."

tuffy-gessling-2.jpg
via Facebook
Tuffy Gessling.

Newman adds, "It's unacceptable. It's hurting the entire image of the fair. The whole fair's reputation is at stake here."

As was outlined in our earlier interview with Ficken's attorney, the announcer maintains that he was surprised as anyone with the clown and his "unscripted" remarks. Ficken, his lawyer says, only said, "Watch out for that bull Obama!" and nothing more.

Here's the state fair's full announcement this afternoon.

State Fair Takes Action Regarding Events at Rodeo Saturday Night

(SEDALIA, Mo.) - At its meeting this morning, the Missouri State Fair Commission was given a report by Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe on actions taken as a result of unacceptable behavior during the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Associations Finals Rodeo this weekend on the fairgrounds.

The Commission reiterated that the statements and actions Saturday night were inappropriate and not in keeping with the Fair's standards. The Missouri State Fair apologizes for the unconscionable stunt.

The Commission said the terms of the MRCA's contract to facilitate the rodeo at the Missouri State Fair are currently under review to determine additional actions that may be taken.

Following Fair Director Wolfe's report, the Missouri State Fair Commission unanimously approved a motion ratifying the action already taken by the Fair Director to permanently ban this rodeo clown from ever participating or performing at the Missouri State Fair again.

For more information about the Missouri State Fair, visit the Fair online at www.mostatefair.com.

And here's the full minority caucus statement:

RE: Racist incident at Missouri State Fair rodeo

"Poking fun at our president is a time-honored tradition in this country, but the incident Saturday night at the Missouri State Fair rodeo went well beyond the line. The concept of an angry bull attempting to trample a black man for the amusement of a crowd is neither entertaining nor funny and is not the type of behavior that our taxpayer-subsidized State Fair should promote.

"House Democrats will be asking House Speaker Tim Jones to immediately appoint an interim committee to investigate this incident and to consider whether continued taxpayer funding is appropriate for an event that allows such racist actions to occur."

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel
D-St. Louis

Assistant House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty
D-Kansas City

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



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