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Controversial rodeo clown speaks out after death threats

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SEDALIA, MO (KCTV) -

A rodeo clown's controversial Missouri State Fair antics went viral after President Barack Obama was spoofed and mocked.

It divided people across the country on whether Tuffy Gessling's stunt was disrespectful to Obama.

Another clown wore an Obama mask while Gessling made questionable comments, including saying, "We're gonna stomp Obama" and other comments that some took to mean suggesting physical threats.

But the clown says it was all in good fun as has been done with other presidents.

Gessling became the center of a firestorm, and he contacted KCTV5 exclusively to provide his side of the story.

The incident occurred Aug. 10 at the fairgrounds in Sedalia during the The Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association finals.

Gessling's antics drew angry rebukes from politicians, a lifetime ban from the Missouri State Fair and more personal hits than he ever faced in the ring.

"I've had one lady spit in my face - called me a dirty name, spit in my face and walked off," Gessling said.

And he says there have been five death threats.

"I've had somebody threaten to run me over. One of them wanted to burn the house down," he said.

Gessling says that hate is actually what finally brought him out to speak.

"I didn't do this to do any hating on anyone. I did this to be funny. I did it to be a joke," Gessling said.

A second man actually wore the mask and some believe physically made fun of Obama's lips, but it was Gessling providing the commentary. The second man has not been punished by the Missouri State Fair, and Gessling says the clown was not mocking Obama's lips.

Gessling said the clown act has been around for generations.

"I didn't think anything more of it than what we've done 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago, when we've done it with Bush, Clinton and Ronald Reagan," Gessling said.

But this time, race entered the equation. A white man dressed in a mask of a black president as the black man's lips were mocked was offensive to a lot of people.

"I never did anything because of anybody's race. I don't care what color somebody is. If they're blue, white, green, polka dotted, striped ... it doesn't bother me one bit," Gessling said.

He adds it was not about politics either.

When asked if he was a Democrat or a Republican, Gessling simply replied, "I am a rodeo clown."

To Gessling it is a matter of perspective.

"I actually think that a lot of people have lost their ability to laugh," Gessling said. "Look at the country as a whole, there is a lot more to be mad at than a rodeo clown at a rodeo trying to make somebody laugh."

He hasn't worked since the Missouri State Fair, but plenty of support has been building too, and now he has a rodeo coming up in Jefferson City. A rodeo in Texas invited him to come down.

Gessling is inviting politicians to come out, watch and grill him with any questions they have.

"If President Obama turns out, I would be honored to shake his hand," Gessling said.

Gessling says the support has been overwhelming as well.

He said he has heard from people from all walks of life, including country music stars and movie stars.

When asked whether he would ever do this bit again, he said only time will tell.

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