By Josh Mitchell

Missourian Staff Writer

Several local legislators said the controversy over the rodeo clown portraying Barack Obama at the State Fair in Sedalia has been overblown.

State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said he is a past member of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association.

Hinson recalled that other sitting presidents, such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have been made fun of at the rodeo without any controversy. Masks were also worn in those cases, he added.

Hinson said he has not seen the clips from the Obama clown incident, and therefore it is hard to say if what occurred was inappropriate.

If there were racial comments that is unacceptable, he said.

State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, said he did not hear any racial comments made during the incident.

People should be very careful about turning it into a racial issue, Curtman added. The United States has overcome real racial problems in the past, he said.

The country should not dilute those real problems with matters that are not truly racial in nature, Curtman said. He said he does not think the incident was motivated by race and that the country is becoming hypersensitive to political correctness.

Curtman said he views the incident as political satire and part of the rodeo entertainment.

State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said he thinks the whole incident has been overblown in the media, similar to the Trayvon Martin case.

News reports have quoted a spectator at the rodeo comparing the scene to a Ku Klux Klan rally. That is the version of the news the media want to report and not necessarily fair or the truth, Schatz said.

While Schatz agreed that the rodeo clown incident was done in poor taste he said it was “absolutely not” racially motivated.

Schatz said he feels any action that is detrimental to the U.S. president is inappropriate. Presidents Bush, Clinton and Reagan have been made fun of too with masks, he added.

Schatz noted that the majority of the spectators at the rodeo likely were not Obama supporters. They may have thought the incident was funnier than others might have viewed it, Schatz said.

He said he has only seen snippets of the incident and agreed it was bad judgement. But he does not think a rodeo clown would perform a racial act knowing that people in the audience were filming with cellphones.

State Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The incident has made national news, with some saying there appeared to be racial overtones in the gag.

A video shows someone in the rodeo arena wearing an Obama mask while a voice over the loudspeaker talks about the president getting run over by the bull.

The Missouri State Fair has since banned the clown, and the rodeo announcer resigned from the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association.

A voice on the loudspeaker is heard saying, “I know I’m a clown. He’s (Obama) just running around acting like one, doesn’t know he is one.”

A voice can also be heard saying, “We’re going to smoke Obama, man,” and “Obama, they’re coming for you this time.”

He also says, “As soon as this bull comes out (Obama) don’t move, he’s gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha.”