What a Clown
By Tommy A. Purvis
Telling racist jokes about President Barack Obama’s wife during a family-friendly event is not a good idea. It’s just plain wrong.
Michael R. Hayhurst—the superintendent of a Victorville-based charter school—knows that now.
Hayhurst’s joke—broadcast over a public-address system at the Creston Classic Rodeo in San Luis Obispo County last Saturday—left the crowd in a stunned silence. The joke, as he was reported to tell it in San Luis Obispo’s The Tribune, said Ann Romney, wife of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, was offered $250,000 to pose for Playboy. The White House was upset, Hayhurst continued, because first lady Michelle Obama could only get $50 from National Geographic.
An emailed statement and apology for an “irresponsibly told” joke that many found offensive was sent from the moonlighting rodeo clown to The Tribune midday Tuesday for readers in the Creston area. Hayhurst’s executive assistant, Lynn Mickens, misled the Weekly the same morning when she said a statement would be given at the Excelsior board meeting later that evening—which didn’t happen. In the statement, Hayhurst explains that he recycled his standup material from the last presidential election. Sarah Palin was the female comparison to Ann Romney in the prior version.
By noon Tuesday, KCBS in Los Angeles had figured out that the racist joketelling rodeo clown was also the superintendent for Excelsior Public Charter Schools, based in Victorville.
Financial documents from Excelsior show that the retired Barstow police sergeant makes $175,000 per year. Mickens makes $300 per hour. The Excelsior Excelsior Leadership Team “meetings” involved extravagant, taxpayer-funded getaways to Newport Beach and Palm Desert, according to Weekly sources and records. For example, that team had a $1,500 dinner tab at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Palm Desert last December according to the charter school’s credit card statements.
Bill Morem of The Tribune also reports that several people who attended the bull-riding event that followed the rodeo emailed the paper and said Hayhurst also made offensive comments about President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Hayhurst was said to compare a black bull to President Obama, asking what they have in common. His punchline: “Besides the obvious? A couple of good points and a lot of bull in between.”
Other emailers heard Hayhurst say that “we need Obamacare like Nancy Pelosi needs a Halloween mask.”
“The Board of Directors apologizes to anyone offended by the inexcusable behavior of 2012 Rodeo Clown Mike Hayhurst on Saturday, September 15th,” rodeo organizers said via press release. “Mr. Hayhurst was an out-of-town independent contractor who was solely responsible for his inappropriate attempt at humor. His distasteful words do not in any way reflect the beliefs or standards of the Rodeo Board.”
Tina Battles, the mother of a 13-year-old eighth-grader who is one of the few black students who attends the predominately white Excelsior reached out to the Weekly after she read about the joke on BET’s website. Her brother had given her a copy of the Weekly’s July 19 cover story (Vol. 7, Issue 16’s “Dire Learning”) probing Excelsior’s questionable adminstrative spending and allegations of shaky, lacklustre academics.
Battles hand-delivered a picture of Hayhurst dressed as a rodeo clown Tuesday morning so that the principal could replace the current photo of the superintendent on the charter school’s office wall. Another parent wants to make buttons for Excelsior students that read “Racism is not a clowning matter.”
The charter school’s other issues, previously reported here, include not preparing students for college and rampant cheating, according to records as well Excelsior parents and students. In addition, questions have been raised about the school’s dramatic drop in white students (from half the student body to just four percent now) and current overwhelmingly Latino population—in light of the fact that minority enrollment numbers for charter schools are a factor in receiving awards, grants and funds.
But regarding the racist joke incident, Creston Classic Rodeo Board Director Jeff Rigby shares his view: “We still believe in the ‘Cowboy Way,’ and part of that creed is to tip our hat and respect women. Mr. Hayhurst broke a cowboy rule.”