After numerous death threats, political censorship and being deprived of the ability to make a living, Thomas Gessling (Tuffy the Clown), is ready to talk about what really happened on the 10th of August 2013 when he did what he always had done in the past; entertain the rodeo fans.
The worldwide media frenzy that followed the event forced the small-town rodeo clown into hiding after being demonized and labeled a racist. “I was so bewildered by all of this hoopla that I refused most offers to speak out,” he said, “because they weren’t interested in hearing the truth and clearing up the misunderstandings. They were trying to paint me as a racist, further cloud the situation, and continue to twist the truth.”
So what had happened? What caused all of this chaos for this rodeo clown? It was a skit that he and another person performed during a rodeo at the Missouri State Fair; the same skit that he had performed for 25 years featuring every President since Ronald Reagan and other prominent political figures such as Hillary Clinton. Yet no one ever complained about this skit until he poked fun at President Obama. So not only had political correctness gone haywire, it ruined the life of a lovable rodeo clown and no one was interested in hearing the truth about what really happened that day.
To begin with, Tuffy the Clown was not even the person wearing the mask. Tuffy carried out another person dressed up to look like a dummy wearing an Obama mask into the middle of the arena. The person wearing the mask had never done the skit before and was nervous about being in the arena with the bull. Tuffy was on the microphone joking with the audience and was trying to calm the nerves of the mask-wearer (whose identity Tuffy will not reveal). At one point, the person behind the mask whispered to Tuffy that he couldn’t see. So Tuffy continued to joke with the crowd while trying to adjust the mask. This action was misconstrued as Tuffy playing with the lips of the Obama mask which was interpreted as being racially insensitive and disrespectful towards the President.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Tuffy, “I was just trying to calm down the guy in the mask and adjust it so that he could see. I kept assuring him that I would distract the bull and keep him safe as his character came alive and then he was to run out of the arena.” The skit played out and the audience laughed as they had so many times over the years. But just 12 hours after the performance ended, all hell broke loose for the rodeo clown from rural Missouri.
Phone calls came flooding in by the hundreds from newspaper reporters, television stations and radio shows. The next thing Tuffy knew, the Missouri State Fair had publicly reprimanded him and banned him for life as did the Professional Rodeo Clown Association (PRCA). Political figures began to make public statements denouncing the clown and making disparaging remarks about him. Al Sharpton stated that he thought Tuffy should be in jail! Tuffy was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion without ever being given the chance to tell his side of the story.
Since this has happened, Tuffy hasn’t been able to make a living because the rodeo producers and organizations fear a backlash from the government and a certain segment of the public if they hire him. To date he has never received any formal communication from the PRCA stating their decision to ban him for life. Tuffy believes his First Amendment right to free speech has been violated and now he wants to set the record straight and regain his life.