Rodeo clown at heart of Obama mask flap winning ‘Person of the Year’

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The rodeo clown who sparked a national discussion about racism and respect for authority when he wore a mask of President Obama at the Missouri State Fair — in line with the fair’s 25-year, traditional nod at the White House — is leading the local vote in an annual Sedalia contest for “Person of the Year.”

Tuffy Gessling, also known as Tuffy the Clown, has already secured more than half of the town’s votes so far, one local radio station reported. Sedalia’s population stands at 21,000, The Daily Mail reported.

KIX 105.7 disc jockey Rob Edwards, who’s with KMOX radio and considered the creator of the contest, said not all who voted for Mr. Gessling actually supported him. But they picked him for the impact he made about Sedalia, around the nation, CBS St. Louis reported.

Mr. Gessling appeared in August at the rodeo and asked the crowd if they wanted to see President Obama gored by a bull — a reference to the mask of the president he wore. Political pundits decried the act as racist; others said it was all in fun.

Mr. Gessling said he’d actually been doing the same act for the past 25 years, wearing masks of different presidents all the way back to Ronald Reagan, The Daily Mail reported. Nevertheless, he was suspended for life by the Missouri State Fair and by the Professional Rodeo Clown Association.

Coming in second for “Person of the Year” is the Sedalia Police Department’s STING unit, CBS St. Louis reported. Mr. Edwards is not exactly surprised at how the voting — which ends Thursday — is progressing.

“[The fair] was a hugely hot topic around here,” Mr. Edwards said, in The Daily Mail. “I mean it was national news, too, but I think that’s why people vote for him, because he brought national attention, for better or for worse.”

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