The rodeo clown who donned a Barack Obama mask and ignited a national controversy at the Missouri State Fair said he wasn't trying to be hateful, he was just trying to make people laugh.
Tuffy Gessling told KCTV in Kansas City he's received death threats since the Aug. 10 incident, which earned him a permanent ban from performing at the fair again and even the accusation that he committed a hate crime against the president.
Image source: KCTV
"I've had one lady spit in my face -- called me a dirty name, spit in my face and walked off," Gessling told KCTV. "I've had somebody threaten to run me over. One of them wanted to burn the house down."
But Gessling's antics -- which included wearing the Obama mask along with a broomstick descending from his backside -- were just meant to be entertainment, he said.
"I didn't do this to do any hating on anyone. I did it to be funny. I did it to be a joke," Gessling told the station. "This bit, this clown bit has been around for generations, and I didn't think anything more of it than what we've done 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago, when we've done it with Bush, Clinton and Ronald Reagan."
He said race never entered the equation for him.
"I never did anything because of anybody's race. I don't care what color somebody is. If they're blue, white, green, polka-dotted, striped -- it doesn't bother me one bit," Gessling said.
Asked whether he considers himself a Democrat or a Republican, he told KCTV, "I am a rodeo clown."
He said he thinks a lot of people "have lost their ability to laugh" and said that looking at the country now, "there is a lot more to be mad at than a rodeo clown at a rodeo."
Gessling has an upcoming rodeo performance in Jefferson City, but told KCTV he's not sure whether he'll ever perform that particular act again. He said he's inviting any politician to come out and see his next show, then ask him questions afterward.
"If President Obama turns out, I would be honored to shake his hand," Gessling said.