The Missouri State Fair is making unusual media waves today as reports surface about a rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask and asked the crowd if they wanted to watch "Obama run down by a bull."
The incident garnered media coverage when Perry Beam, a fairgoer who attended the rodeo with his wife and a Taiwanese exchange student, posted a video of the clown show on his Facebook page, which then made its way onto the blog Showmeprogress.com. Beam and others have gone so far as to hyperbolically compare the incident to a Ku Klux Klan rally.
Watch the rodeo footage here:
Although the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association refuses to comment, Missouri's Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder described the incident as "disrespectful" to the president and tweeted "We are better than this." Meanwhile, a spokesman for the state's Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, reassured the public that the performance "does not reflect the values of Missourians or the State Fair." The State Fair organizers and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill also joined the voices of condemnation. The organizers asserted that the clown show "does not reflect the opinions or standards" of the fair, while McCaskill tweeted that "this incident is shameful."
While insinuating that the president deserves death by bull-running is indeed crude and a terrible example of political humor, it is hardly racist. Kinder, McCaskill, and the fair organizers are justified in condemning the incident for its crassness, but likening the rodeo to a Klan rally, or insinuating that a live dummy is a direct incitement to an attack on the president's person, goes entirely too far.
Every president has had to endure meritless caricatures, live or otherwise, of their person. A simple Google image search of "Bush clown," for instance, will turn up numerous pictures of Bush photoshopped as a clown. A website called the GOP Clown Show features one such picture on an article about how Americans still blame Bush for the economy.
Despite Beam's exaggerations and discomfort with the display, he is entirely correct when he asserts that the display was completely unacceptable in a state fair sanctioned by Missouri and funded by its taxpayers. State gairs are meant to unify the public and provide them with leisurely, family friendly pastimes, not create tension with divisive, crude political statements. As Beam told the press: "This isn't the Republican Missouri State Fair."