Missouri State Fair Controversy: Mark Ficken Resigns As Rodeo Cowboy Association President

Rodeo clown with Obama mask. - Courtesy of Perry Beam
Courtesy of Perry Beam
Rodeo clown with Obama mask.

Mark Ficken, the announcer caught up in the Missouri State Fair Obama clown scandal this week, has resigned as president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association.

After news broke on Sunday about a rodeo clown in an Obama mask participating in a skit featuring a bull chasing the president, Ficken, an announcer at the fair, hired an attorney and argued that media reports were inaccurately attributing controversial comments to him.

Now, Ficken has decided to step down as president of the association, which puts on the rodeo show at the state fair, a taxpayer-funded event in Sedalia. His attorney tells us that he disagrees with how the association has responded to the criticisms.

See also: - Mark Ficken, State Fair Announcer in Obama Rodeo Scandal, Says Reports Are Wrong - Missouri State Fair Rodeo Clown Identified, Permanently Banned From Performing - State Fair Clown Tuffy Gessling Gets Huge Online Following After Obama Mask Stunt

Ficken is also the superintendent of the Boonville School District.

According to his attorney Albert Watkins, Ficken had no idea a rodeo clown in an Obama mask would appear on Saturday night at the fair and he said nothing other than the single statement, "Watch out for that bull Obama!"

The other statements caught on video -- from a man asking the crowd if they wanted to see Obama run down by a bull -- came directly from the "rogue rodeo clown," Watkins says.

That clown, as we've reported, goes by the name of Tuffy Gessling, and state fair officials have permanently banned him from ever performing at the fair again. (Incidentally, he now has a large online following of supporters from across the country).

click to enlarge Tuffy Gessling. - via Facebook
via Facebook
Tuffy Gessling.

Gessling is, however, still a member of the rodeo cowboy association, Watkins tells us.

"The association said that having this guy banned [from the state fair] is enough," Watkins says. "My client thinks he should be removed from the organization.... He jeopardized the organization.... He should be kicked out."

And that's why Ficken decided to step down as president, he says.

"His thought process was, the association has always been a bunch of gentlemen...committed to the sport of rodeo. It's never been a forum for political statements, never been a forum for racism," Watkins says.

Daily RFT has again reached out to the association for comment and will update if we hear back. The association issued a short apology on its website that said "this type of behavior will not be tolerated," adding, "The Sport of Rodeo is not meant to be a political platform."

It's unclear exactly how Gessling is tied to the association, but Ficken, through his attorney, is arguing that he deserved to face more serious consequences from the group. We've also reached out to Gessling once again and will update if we get a chance to speak with him.

The state fair, coordinated in part with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, has apologized in the wake of condemning statements from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The Missouri State Fair Commission also says it is reviewing its contract with the cowboy association.

Missouri State Fair Controversy: Mark Ficken Resigns As Rodeo Cowboy Association President
Courtesy of Perry Beam

In the meantime, Watkins says that he was successful in getting news outlets across the country to correct reports falsely attributing some of the controversial statements to his client.

"A number of the erroneous articles were taken off line and replaced with accurate ones," he says.

In case you missed it, here are two videos we uploaded with footage from an attendee of the fair outraged by the performance.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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