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Missouri Rodeo Apologizes For Incident Involving Clown In Obama Mask

(Courtesy of the Missouri State Fair)

Updated at 5:31 p.m. with additional comments from Al Watkins, attorney for Mo. Rodeo Cowboy Assoc. Pres. Mark Ficken.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. with comments from Gov. Jay Nixon. Jacob McCleland contributed reporting from Cape Girardeau.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. with actions taken against the rodeo clown.

The Missouri State Fair has permanently banned a rodeo clown whose imitation of President Barack Obama has been widely criticized as disrespectful.

The clown, whose name has not been released, wore a mask of the president and asked the crowd if they wanted to "see Obama run down by a bull."

The fair is also reviewing whether to take action against the contractor who staged Saturday's rodeo.

"We’re going to have the Office of Administration look at all of the contracts around this and whatnot," Gov. Jay Nixon said at an appearance in Cape Girardeau today. "They’ll review what other steps might be taken to make sure that not only something like this doesn’t happen, but to look at those contracts to see if there is anything within those contracts that could specifically hold them accountable for these actions."

Nixon also said he was heartened by the way both Republicans and Democrats responded to the incident.

Earlier reports said the comment was made by Mark Ficken, the rodeo's announcer who is the president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association and the superintendent of the Boonville schools. But his attorney, Al Watkins, says Ficken merely said, "watch out for that bull, Obama."  Watkins says his client had no idea what the rodeo clown was about do.

"In fact, there is a script that goes with these events," Watkins said.  "This was unscripted and it was without notice."

Watkins says all other comments were made by the rodeo clown wearing the Obama mask, and that his client was caught up in making sure he properly carried out his announcer duties. 

Our earlier story:

The Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association is apologizing for an incident Saturday in which an announcer allegedly asked the crowd if they wanted to see a clown wearing a President Barack Obama mask "run down by a bull."

"The MCRA Board of Directors and over 600 members do not condone or approve of this sort of activity," the association said in a statement on its website. "The MRCA Board of Directors is dealing with the situation firmly and quickly as this type of behavior will not be tolerated."

The incident, which took place at the state fair in Sedalia, Mo., brought immediate bipartisan condemnation. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, tweeted "I condemn the actions disrespectful to POTUS [President of the United States] the other night. We are better than this."

And Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill said in a statement that if true, the incident was "shameful" and "unacceptable," and taught those in attendance "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."

But an attorney for the announcer in question, Boonville school superintendent Mark Ficken, says it was actually the rodeo clown who asked the crowd if they wanted to see the president run down by a bull.

Attorney Albert S. Watkins says the clown's appearance was unscripted, and that  and that Ficken merely said, "watch out for that bull, Obama." Ficken is also the president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association.

Read NPR's coverage of the incident on their blog, The Two-Way.

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Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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