It was rodeo clown Mike Hayhurst of Barstow, not announcer Ed Kutz of Arroyo Grande, who made an offensive, racist joke about first lady Michelle Obama over the public-address system of the Creston Classic Rodeo, a rodeo board member confirmed Sunday.
Spectators initially believed and reported that Kutz made the comment Saturday. Both he and Hayhurst were on microphones at the same time.
Speaking Sunday on behalf of the rodeo’s nine-member board, Mike Barrett said the rodeo is not responsible for the joke and will ask Hayhurst for a letter addressing the issue and a public apology. The board will discuss at its next meeting whether it will fire Hayhurst, and it will review scripts for future performances by any clowns.
“We probably won’t be using his services in the future,” Barrett said of Hayhurst.
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The joke, as told by Hayhurst, 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.
According to rodeo board member Tom Hansen, the joke fell flat.
“Creston didn’t find it funny. This isn’t the kind of thing we trade in,” Hansen said.
Hayhurst was not performing at the rodeo Sunday. He was taken to an area hospital Saturday evening for head injuries, Barrett said. He did not know whether the injuries were related to an incident at the rodeo Saturday in which a bull tossed Hayhurst into the air.
When reached on his cellphone Sunday and asked whether he wanted to apologize for the joke or explain his comment, Hayhurst said: “I cannot believe how insensitive you are. I am in the hospital.” He then uttered a vulgarity and hung up.
Hayhurst has performed at the Creston event for several years but is an independent contractor and not officially affiliated with the rodeo, Barrett said. According to Hayhurst’s website, prorodeoclown.com, he has performed as a rodeo clown since 1977. He was once a city police sergeant and is now a charter school administrator.
Kutz, who was erroneously identified as the one who made the comment in initial reports, declined to speak to The Tribune on Sunday.
At the rodeo Sunday, as organizers distanced themselves from the comment, several people in attendance said they were not offended by the joke and did not believe an apology was necessary.
A woman who refused to give her name but said she lives east of Creston said, “It’s called freedom of speech. I don’t think (Hayhurst) did anything out of the ordinary. ... Let’s not blow things out of proportion.”
Another man who lives in Creston, who also declined to be named, said, “It’s not racist at all. It’s a joke. If these people are offended by that, then they don’t need to come to our rodeo.”
But one woman, who also would not identify herself, said, “It’s offensive on many levels. It’s also offensive to women, and it’s not an appropriate comment for a public forum.”