UPDATE: Rodeo clown apologizes for racist joke about Michelle Obama

Two organizations decry clown’s racist joke as more offensive comments surface

clambert@thetribunenews.com slinn@thetribunenews.comSeptember 17, 2012 

UPDATE: Creston rodeo board of directors apologizes for offensive joke »

UPDATE: Rodeo clown Mike Hayhurst, in an email to The Tribune on Tuesday morning, issued an apology to people “in the Creston area” for telling a racist joke about first lady Michelle Obama at the Creston Classic Rodeo on Saturday. Here is his email message:

“Thanks to the Founders and defenders of our great nation, we are afforded our free speech rights. With those rights comes responsibility. At the Creston Classic Rodeo on Saturday, September 15, 2012, I irresponsibly told a joke that many people found offensive and I apologize. This was a joke I read in 2010 and chose to recycle it during this election season. I simply substituted Ann Romney’s name where the original joke used Sarah Palin’s name. While no apology will satisfy everyone, I hope those of you in the Creston area with whom I have had a 15 plus year relationship will accept mine. I wish all of you much future success with the Creston Classic Rodeo.”

Original story: Organizers of two rodeo sporting events in Creston last weekend are condemning the racist comments of rodeo clown Mike Hayhurst of Barstow, with the Creston Classic Rodeo board planning to issue a statement today.

United Bull Riding, a for-profit organization based in Bakersfield, on Monday apologized for statements that Hayhurst reportedly made during the bull-riding event, which immediately followed but was not connected to the rodeo.

After initially reporting a comment concerning first lady Michelle Obama, The Tribune received several emails Monday from county residents who attended the bull-riding event and said the rodeo clown also made several offensive comments about President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and actress Lindsay Lohan.

Hayhurst could not be reached to comment Monday and hung up after The Tribune sought comment from him Sunday.

“UBR does not endorse or condone the distasteful and unsettling remarks expressed as part of the unscripted, free-form banter during our bull-riding event,” the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Jeff Rigby, president of Creston Classic Rodeo board, said the board’s statement will express its displeasure with a joke Hayhurst made during the rodeo.

“This was just a flat-out bad joke in bad taste,” Rigby said, adding that board members agreed they would not contract with Hayhurst again.

The board has contracted with Hayhurst for three years and hasn’t had a problem in the past. It did not require a script prior to the event, board corporate secretary Mike Barrett said.

During the Creston Classic Rodeo on Saturday afternoon, Hayhurst made a joke over the public address system about Michelle Obama that reportedly went like this: Playboy is offering Ann Romney $250,000 to pose in the magazine, and the White House is upset about it because National Geographic only offered Michelle Obama $50 to pose for them. (The Tribune is republishing the statement for those readers who did not see it in previous stories.)

“I heard what Mike (Hayhurst) said, and I heard the hush fall over the crowd and I knew this was not good, this was bad,” Rigby said Monday, adding he was moving livestock in the back pens at that moment. “We were in the middle of a performance … we can’t stop and deal with an issue like that during a performance.”

He added that the nonprofit organization is volunteer-run and has not had prior experience with an issue like this.

The board met Sunday to determine who made the comment, and then again Monday to agree on its response.

Other board members said they did not hear Hayhurst’s comment, and all were busy Saturday ensuring the rodeo ran smoothly.

“Most of us are working like crazy when we’re there,” board member Tom Hansen said. United Bull Riding’s inaugural bull-riding competition was held immediately following the rodeo on Saturday afternoon.

Hayhurst continued to perform before and during the bull-riding event, said Steve Neitzke, the chief financial officer for United Bull Riding, which formed about four months ago. Hayhurst was not contracted with the company.

Several people who attended the event emailed The Tribune and said they heard racist and offensive remarks during Saturday’s bull-riding event. For example, Gretchen Ross of Cayucos said she heard the rodeo clown compare a black bull to President Obama, asking what they have in common.

“Besides the obvious?” was the answer, Ross said. “A couple of good points and a lot of bull in between.”

She added: “My son and I were offended by that. I thought it was disrespectful to the audience.”

Ross and her husband, Michael Foster, also recalled a comment that referenced actress Lohan’s time behind bars, and said Hayhurst joked, “We need Obamacare like Nancy Pelosi needs a Halloween mask.”

Neitzke said bull-riding event organizers did not hear Hayhurst’s comments and were not aware of any previous comments made during the day.

“Professional bull-riding is fraught with so many physical hazards that we were focused on those hazards,” he said. A few people made organizers aware of the comments after the event.

“It’s important for us to make sure the public knew that we accept responsibility for anything that happens at a UBR event, regardless of who said it,” Neitzke said.

According to the UBR statement, “The public can expect a much-heightened vigilance on UBR’s part in the future.”

News Assistant Julia Hickey contributed to this report.

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