Justin Wingerter

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KMOX) – The President of the Missouri Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says a rodeo clown act depicting President Barack Obama at the Missouri State Fair Saturday night was a hate crime.

“I think that a hate crime occurred,” Mary Ratliff told KXNT Radio in Las Vegas Thursday. ”I think a hate crime occurs when you use a person’s race to depict who they are and to make degrading comments, gestures, et cetera, against them.”

Ratliff says it’s an outrage that taxpayer dollars were used to disrespect the president.

“We are taxpayers in the state of Missouri,” Ratliff said, “and when taxpayer money is utilized to discredit and be disrespectful to our president, whether he be black, white, Hispanic, Latina… it is an outrage.”

Ratliff says that is why her organization is asking the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation. She has also asked the Secret Service to investigate the incident in Sedalia.

“With all of the hateful and mean things that are happening and happened in Missouri here at the rodeo, we believe that the Justice Department should look into the discriminatory practices against our sitting African-American president,” Ratliff added. “In this country, discrimination is still illegal.”

The Missouri State Fair on Monday barred the rodeo clown, Tuffy Gessling, from performing at the fair. Mark Ficken, the announcer at the event, resigned this week from his position atop the Missouri Cowboy Rodeo Association, a position he held for only two days.

The incident Saturday night drew national attention and almost unanimous bipartisan condemnation from Missouri’s politicians and congressional delegation. While few have gone as far as Ratliff in denouncing the show, many in the state’s African-American community have viewed it through a racial lens.

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, said he was “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,” he added.

Missouri Rep. Steve Webb, D-Florissant, said he was “incensed” and referred to the incident’s racial undertones in a statement Monday.

“Sometimes apologies just won’t do. While I do not believe this represents all of rural Missouri, the racial undertones of a taunted rodeo clown dressed as our nation’s first black president is what the nation woke up to this morning,” Webb said.

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, called the event “racist and degrading.” Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, added, “I am angered and disgusted by the blatant racism that was displayed at the Missouri State Fair.”

Meanwhile, a “Support Tuffy Gessling” Facebook page created Monday had over 65,000 “likes” by Wednesday night.

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