- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Republican congressman says the rodeo clown banned from the Missouri State Fair for wearing a President Obama mask during a skit is welcome to perform in Texas instead.

Rep. Steve Stockman said the clown can take part in a rodeo in his district, which is just east of Houston, as a show of support for free speech.

“Liberals want to bronco bust dissent. But Texans value speech, even if it’s speech they don’t agree with,” the congressman said in a statement. “From Molly Ivins to Louie Gohmert and every opinion between Texans value free and open political speech. I’m sure any rodeo in Texas would be proud to have performers.”

Mr. Stockman went on to chastise the Missouri fair, which has banned the clown in question and also has demanded that before this year’s vendor is allowed to put on another fair, it show proof that all clowns and other employees have undergone sensitivity training. Mr. Stockman said that appeared to be an effort “to create a state of fear.”

The fair has not identified the clown, who wore an Obama mask as an announcer asked if the crowd would like to see Mr. Obama get run down by a bull. But The Associated Press reported that a friend and a relative identified the man as Tuffy Gesling.

The clown controversy also made its way to the White House press corps Wednesday, as spokesman Josh Earnest was asked whether Mr. Obama had any personal reaction either to the skit or to calls by the Missouri NAACP for the Justice Department and Secret Service to investigate the mask-wearer.

SEE ALSO: Rodeo clowns asked to take ‘sensitivity training’

The NAACP said the skit constituted “targeting and inciting violence against our president” and provides the basis for a federal investigation. The group added that the state is “subsidizing the Missouri State Fair to the tune of $400,000. We are calling for the subsidy to stop.”

Mr. Earnest said he was unaware of any personal reaction by the president and deflected questions about calls for investigations to the Justice Department.

But, he added, “I can tell you as a native Missourian it’s certainly not one of the finer moments for our state.”

On the other side, a Facebook group has been created to support the banned clown and gained more than 30,000 supporters in just three days

“This page was started to show support for Tuffy Gessling a rodeo entertainer that is taking heat for telling a joke that has been around for decades. Tuffy’s big sin? He dared to tell the joke using Obama,” the group’s description reads.

On Tuesday, a page administrator posted a quote, attributed to French philosopher Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

⦁ Jessica Chasmar and Cheryl Chumley contributed to this report.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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