The rodeo clown who ignited a firestorm of controversy after donning a mask of President Barack Obama has spoken out for the first time, insisting that he was only making a joke with no underlying message.
"I didn't do this to do any hating on anyone. I did this to be funny. I did it to be a joke," Tuffy Gessling told KCTV about the Aug. 10 performance.
Gessling’s appearance drew waves of criticism when it was first reported that in addition to wearing the Obama mask, he made controversial comments such as, “We’re gonna stomp Obama.”
Some observers said the act went too far, bringing up questions of whether the performance had racial undertones. However, Gessling said it was only the latest iteration in a long tradition of mocking U.S. presidents.
"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," Gessling said.
However, after the story went viral, the Missouri State Fair said it had banned the rodeo clown from performing at its event in the future. However, fair officials declined to release his name, saying they wanted to protect his anonymity over safety concerns.
And just when the story seemed to be fading out of the news cycle, Gessling was thrust back into the spotlight when Yahoo News reported that Texas Rep. Steve Stockman had invited Gessling to perform in his state.
Gessling said he is apolitical and was simply doing his job. But he said that job has come to a standstill since the story broke. Instead, he has faced five death threats and a number of personally painful interactions with individuals upset with him.
"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.”
Interestingly, Gessling said he wouldn’t rule out wearing the Obama mask again. But at the same time, he said it would be an “honor” to meet the president in person.
"If President Obama turns out, I would be honored to shake his hand," Gessling said.
"I actually think that a lot of people have lost their ability to laugh," he added. "Look at the country as a whole, there is a lot more to be mad at than a rodeo clown at a rodeo trying to make somebody laugh."