(Photo courtesy: Perry Beam)
By Art Holliday
KSDK - Rodeo Clown Tuffy Gessling said he wasn't trying to offend anyone when he donned a now-infamous mask of President Obama at the Missouri State Fair earlier this month.
"I didn't do this to do any hating on anyone," he said. "I did this to be funny. I did it to be a joke."
The rodeo clown conducted his first TV interview with a Kansas City television Monday, telling KCTV that he's received death threats, had a woman spit in his face and that he'd have no problem shaking the president's hand.
"If President Obama turns out, I'd be honored to shake his hand," he said.
Gessling said the stunt was comparable to other jokes that rodeos have pulled off at the expense of past presidents.
"This clown bit has been around for generations and I didn't think anything more of it than what we did 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago when we've done it with Bush, and Clinton and Ronald Reagan," he said.
While Gessling wore the Obama mask, the announcer asked the crowd if they wanted to see "Obama run down by a bull." Another clown played with the lips of the Obama mask. All of this offended politicians from both political parties and sparked a national controversy, leading to death threats and bad behavior.
"I've had one lady spit in my face. Call me a dirty name, spit in my face and walk off. I had somebody threatened to run me over. One of them wanted to burn the house down," Gessling said.
Some critics saw Gessling's stunt as racist, but Gessling disagrees, saying the president's race had nothing to do with his attempt at humor.
"I never did anything because of anybody's race," he said. "I don't care what color somebody is, if they're blue, white, green, polka-dotted, it doesn't bother me one bit."
After angry comments and a permanent ban from the Missouri State Fair, Gessling wonders if the nation has lost its sense of humor.
"Look at the country as whole. There's a lot more to be mad at than a rodeo clown at a rodeo trying to make somebody laugh," he said.
Since the controversy, Gessling says he's been hired to perform at rodeos in Jefferson City and Texas.