The Missouri stunt lit a nationwide controversy over race and free speech that’s now entering its fourth day and continues to roil US social media.
Missouri fair officials banned the clown from their bull rings for life and ordered other clowns to undergo sensitivity training. The Missouri chapter of the NAACP asked the US Justice Department to investigate the clown for inciting violence against the president by asking the crowd if it wanted to see Mr. Obama run over by a charging bull.
Meanwhile, conservatives say Democrats are engaging in selective outrage, forgetting similar incidents involving representations of George W. Bush during his presidency.
“Liberals want to bronco bust dissent. But Texas values speech, even if it’s speech they don’t agree with,” said Representative Stockman, in a press release Wednesday.
This is not the first time Stockman has issued an invite to a controversial performer, or at least a performer who has engendered fierce partisan debate. He’s the lawmaker who asked shock rocker and gun advocate Ted Nugent to attend Obama’s State of the Union address this year.
Prior to that, Stockman suggested in a 1995 article in Guns & Ammo magazine that the Clinton administration staged the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, to create political support for a nationwide ban on assault weapons.
Stockman later backed away from that charge, with a spokesman saying the lawmaker believed he had “phrased it badly."
Furthermore, it’s not clear exactly what sort of performance, and where, Stockman is asking the rodeo clown to engage in. The clown has been unnamed by the Missouri State Fair, but friends and relatives have identified him as Tuffy Gessling, according to the Associated Press.
Stockman’s east Texas district is mostly rural. It borders Houston, which hosts the largest rodeo in the state each spring. But officials of that show, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, said they had no advance warning of the invitation. They sounded wary of the situation in remarks made to a Politico reporter.
“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo had no conversations with Congressman Stockman and [he] has no authority to invite any person to perform at our show.... We pride ourselves on providing a quality, affordable and family friendly presentation that entertains everyone and offends no one,” Leroy Shafer, vice president and chief of operations for the show, told Politico.
If nothing else, the Missouri clown incident has shown how political partisans of opposite sides can look at the same event and see it in completely different contexts.
Liberals see a man at a taxpayer-supported event in a rubber mask of the first African-American president, with exaggerated lips and ears and an upside-down broom used as a tail, and wonder why conservatives don’t see the racial context.
Conservatives remember similar masks of George W. Bush in less-publicized rodeo appearances, and incidents such as the use of a representation of Mr. Bush’s head on a pike in a “Game of Thrones” episode, and wonder why liberals weren’t outraged then.
There was a rare bridge over this divide on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Wednesday night. Discussing what they called “clown-gate," conservative host Hannity and liberal guest Jehmu Greene, an African-American and former Hillary Rodham Clinton adviser, agreed that the controversy has been overblown.
In particular, Ms. Greene said the Missouri NAACP’s request for a federal probe of the incident is “ridiculous."
“Hell has frozen over tonight,” said Mr. Hannity, referring to their agreement over the issue.