DENVER — It’s been more than a week since an incident at the Missouri State Fair involving a rodeo clown wearing a mask of President Barack Obama drew claims of racism and reignited, however briefly, a national debate about race.
But on Wednesday morning, Colorado state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, took to Twitter to weigh in on the issue, echoing the irritation of many conservatives who have groaned at the media’s hypersensitivity to what was, to them, just a joke.
The NAACP called the clown’s mocking of Obama a “hate crime”; and the Missouri State Fair fired the clown and moved to require sensitivity training for future entertainers.
While some lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, quickly condemned the incident, a number of conservatives have defended the clown (Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Tex., actually invited the clown to come perform in Texas) chided citizens who can’t take a harmless joke and, like Sonnenberg, sought to remind people of a long history of clowns mocking presidents.
Whether that response is going to help the Republican Party with its ongoing minority outreach project is, well, a matter of debate.
“For a party trying to broaden its appeal to minorities, the [GOP]’s quick defense of the clown simply highlights how narrow-minded they’ve become,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio.
State Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, was particularly bothered by Sonnenberg’s tweet.
“That’s something they used to do at KKK rallies,” Fields said of the Missouri rodeo clown’s performance. “It’s not something anyone needs to get over. Hatred is hatred and this was another attack on our president that demonstrated an ongoing disrespect.
“It’s extremely insensitive and inappropriate. As a lawmaker, he should know better,” Fields said.