Conservative entertainers have a habit of threatening, satirically or in seriousness, the lives of those they disagree with

Tuffy Gessling - obama rodeo clown

A rodeo clown who goes by the name Tuffy Gessling performed at the Missouri State Fair earlier this month. For his “show,” Mr. Gessling put on an Obama mask, glued a broomstick to the outside of his overalls (making it appear the broomstick was somehow inserted into his own rectum), and stood facing a bull.

Another clown provided commentary, yelling things like “Obama, they’re coming for you this time” and “Yahoo! We’re gonna smoke Obama!” Conservatives are defending Mr. Gessling as loudly as they defended Ted Nugent when he told then-Senator Obama to “suck on a machine gun.” Those same conservatives did not defend the Dixie Chicks.

Rep. Steve King has suggested that President Obama invite Tuffy the rodeo clown to the White House while Texas congressman Steve Stockman  has gone so far as to suggest Tuffy come to Texas to perform, because of freedom. There is a Facebook page supporting Tuffy Gessling that, last I checked, had almost 75,000 likes. That’s a lot of people, and I’ll bet you one banned rodeo clown that many of those same people burned a Dixie Chicks’ CD or two. Because its okay to encourage violence against President Obama.

It’s perfectly alright to shout “Yahoo! We’re gonna smoke Obama!” in front of kids at a state fair. It’s just a rodeo clown exercising his First Amendment right to wear a mask of the President of the United States while pretending to sodomize himself with a broomstick. Just like it was perfectly fine for Ted Nugent to threaten the life of President Obama, not only when he was candidate Obama, but at an NRA convention.

Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks

You know what the Dixie Chicks did that garnered them death threats and personal attacks and CD burnings and boycotts? One member, Natalie Maines, said in 2003 during a concert in London she was “ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” That’s it.

Neither Natalie Maines or the other two members of the band, sisters Martie Erwin Maguire or Emily Erwin Robison threatened President Bush’s life, donned a mask and suggested he get run over by a bull, shouted “Yahoo! We’re gonna smoke Bush!” or told George W. Bush to “suck on a machine gun.” Ms. Maines simply expressed her disappointment that the man who lied to America about Iraq and 9/11 was from Texas.

What’s the difference? Why were the Dixie Chicks pounced on by conservatives? Where was the defense of Natalie Maines’ First Amendment rights? Where were the congressmen lining up to welcome the Dixie Chicks to Texas or Iowa with open arms and big, made-for-TV smiles? Why didn’t Steve Stockman take the Dixie Chicks to a State of the Union address?

The Washington Post interviewed a man named Virgil Henke who attended the rodeo where Tuffy Gessling “performed.” Mr. Henke was at first wary of speaking to the press, believing publicly disagreeing with the president would result in the Internal Revenue Service going up his “backside” and showing up at his door. But he eventually did share his opinion of the rodeo clown with the Obama mask and broomstick attached to the back of his overalls, saying:

“I’ve got no respect for him. Why, he’s destroyed this country. How much freedom have we lost? I don’t care whether it’s a black man in office, but we have to have a true-blooded American. I think he’s Muslim and trying to destroy this country, catering to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”

Now I’m just guessing here, but if President Obama was President Smith, and President Smith was not a black man, Virgil probably wouldn’t be so convinced of this whole “he’s a Muslim” thing. And if a rodeo clown shoved a President Smith mask over his face and glued a broomstick to his rear end, I bet Virgil would be outraged. I bet Virgil was outraged at the Dixie Chicks.

tuffy gessling
Tuffy Gessling

What Tuffy Gessling and his cohorts did at the Missouri State Fair was not a joke, no matter how much conservatives try to spin it. Their language encouraged violence against President Obama and disrespected both the man and the office. Missouri Republicans and Democrats condemned the event even as people like Virgil Henke applauded it.

Virgil also told The Washington Post that he surfs the Internet, looking for websites that make fun of President Obama and his family. One of his favorite sites compares First Lady Michelle Obama to a monkey. He defends this by stating he doesn’t “hate a black person – it’s just funny.”

It’s not funny, Virgil, just like it’s not funny to create a meme with the President of the United States dressed up like an African chief with a bone through his nose. It’s not funny to take a photo of a box poised over a watermelon and label it an “Obama trap.” And it’s not funny to wear a mask with exaggerated lips, glue a broomstick to your ass and encourage a crowd to cheer a bull running over  President Obama.

The Dixie Chicks did not encourage violence, they did not say they hated George W. Bush, they simply vocalized what many in America felt after we discovered we were lied to about Iraq. Watching conservatives come to the defense of people like Ted Nugent and Tuffy Gessling, but boycott, attack and threaten the Dixie Chicks is hypocritical to say the least. But the one good thing this double standard does, at least for me, is remind me that I’m not ready to make nice either.



  1. If you did any amount of research you would have found out mocking presidents, politicians and famous celebrities is a staple of rodeo clowns. This very rodeo clown has been wearing masks of every president dating back to Reagan. Rodeo clowns have been wearing masks and mocking famous people of all colors for generations.

  2. The difference between Tuffy Gessling and Gabriel Range: when a rodeo clown (Gessling) fantasizes about a bull running down President Obama, and “Obama” escapes at the last second, Gessling gets banned for life; when a filmmaker (Range) fantasizes about assassinating President Bush, graphically depicting him being shot twice in the chest, Range wins an Emmy; no ban from anything (film, Death of a President, 2006). Astonishing, the subheads you can write if you’re willing to ignore any facts that don’t suit your thesis.

    • The following description is from the film’s own website:

      Winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the Toronto Film Festival,” “DEATH OF A PRESIDENT” is conceived as a fictional TV documentary broadcast in 2008, reflecting on another monstrously despicable and cataclysmic event: the assassination of President George W. Bush on October 19th, 2007.

      Monstrously despicable and cataclysmic.

      Interesting how you, tomwinfl, did not actually address the blatant hypocrisy highlighted in the article, but chose to insert a red herring. S’okay, I’m used to that. 🙂

    • Those are two very different contexts you’re talking about. Gabriel Range is British for one thing (not his president). Second, the film was about the aftermath of a hypothetical political assassination and it’s social-political ramifications. There was no mockery of Bush, It’s just a fictional documentary. Bush had very little to do with the story anyway.

      • QM, would your response be just as measured and ‘context sensitive’ if someone made a film about assassinating President Obama while he’s still in office? Somehow I doubt it, but we’re not likely to find out: even as I write it, it sounds as unthinkable as it ought to. No one in the film industry here or in Europe would ever underwrite such a project. EN, both the rodeo clown’s idea of humor and the filmmaker’s idea of an appropriate plot device are in extremely poor taste, as should be obvious to any reasonable person. Yet you condemn the former and make excuses for the latter, which tells me more about “blatant hypocrisy” than repeated readings of your article ever could.

        • There have been many films made which I did not see. I won’t watch anything directed by Roman Polanski. The “excuse” I posted was a quote from the film’s own website. What I’m waiting for, and probably will never get from you tomwinfl is an explanation of why Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks received death threats, so many in fact that they made a documentary about the entire experience, and yet Tuffy Gessling has been championed by the right wing.

          Quiet Mike made an excellent point-it was a fictional documentary. As with all entertainment, there will be some who embrace it while others do not. If someone made a mockumentary about the fictional assassination of Barack Obama, and the script was well written, the acting was good and the plot made sense, I would probably watch it. Because I understand the difference between reality and fiction. I watched Oliver Stone’s film on the assassination of JFK and did not for one minute think it was real.

          • Um, I watched the rodeo clown video, and unless that was actually the President wearing the Obama mask, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t real either. If that (distinguishing between reality and fiction) is to be your standard, it should be applied equally to rodeo clown routines and movies; but it seems a pretty useless standard to me: both the the clown routine and the film are obviously fiction: to qualify as reality, we’d have to be talking about an actual attempt on the life of the President. As to the Dixie Chicks, both their assertions of displeasure with Bush and music fans’ expressions of displeasure with the Chicks amounted to the exercise of free speech, not its suppression. Death threats obviously do not qualify as free speech, and that’s the problem with both the clown routine and the film: the implied death threat. (I can tell you exactly why the Dixie Chicks received death threats: because they’re famous, and because there are some crazy people out there. To believe that crazy is exclusively or even primarily the province of one ideology or another is to ignore abundant evidence to the contrary.)

            At least we can agree on Polanski.

        • You missed the point of the description of the film. It’s not “about” Bush being assassinated, it is *about* what happens to the country in the aftermath of the assassination. Do you seriously not see the difference or are you being intentionally obtuse to defend your non-point?

          • The film graphically depicts a sitting president being murdered, something that’s not been done before, to my knowledge. If you can’t see that that’s at least as much of an implied threat as a lame rodeo clown routine, then it’s not me who’s being obtuse.

  3. Erin, you got my alleged mind spinning. As soon as it stops, I will post a more in depth “reply”. My gut reaction is that you have most of it correct, but missed a couple of points that span race, society, history, and humor. I’ll get back to you.

  4. The difference between Tuffy Gessling and the Dixie Chicks?

    Talent, style, class, education, intelligence, beauty when do you want me to stop? 🙂

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