Of course the Missouri State Fair can do what it wants, but the lifetime ban seems excessive. Any president comes in for a fair amount of public mockery, and what happened at the State Fair does not seem worse than the mockery of the president that occurred — without consequences like lifetime bans — during George W. Bush’s years in the White House. It’s not necessary to recite all the insults, threats, and other offenses directed at Bush during his presidency; if you were awake during those years, you know there were a lot of them. But perhaps it would be useful to list a few, and ask whether they resulted in punishment and professional exile for those involved.
As far as disrespect and ridicule are concerned, in 2007, TV newswoman Erin Burnett, who then worked for MSNBC, repeatedly referred to Bush as a “monkey” during a report on an economic summit. Burnett, who later apologized, was not banned from television; she is now a prime-time anchor on CNN.
Burnett was not alone; depictions of Bush as a chimpanzee, in particular, were common on the Internet during those years. And not unheard of on television. In October 2009, after Bush left office HBO’s Bill Maher said on his program “Real Time,” that, “Barack Obama, an actual college professor, replaced George Bush, an actual chimp.” Maher was not banned from HBO; he is still the host of the program.
In August, 2007, North Dakota Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy was caught on video calling Bush a “clown.” Pomeroy later apologized, but he was not banned from office. Instead, he was re-elected for a ninth term in the House in 2008. He did lose in the Republican wave of 2010, but is now a lobbyist in Washington.
As far as the use of violent imagery and the president is concerned, the Bush years saw imagery much more serious than a bump from a bull. For example, the 2006 film “Death of a President” was a faux-documentary that told the story of a fictional Bush assassination, including a graphic depiction of the Bush character being shot in the chest. After its premiere at the Toronto film festival, where it won the International Critics Prize, “Death of a President” was handled by a major American distributor, Newmarket Films, and was reviewed, seriously and on its own terms, by the Washington Post, New York Times and other major press outlets. The film’s makers were not banned for life from the movie industry or anything else; the director has since made several films that have shown at festivals around the world and is now working on a documentary on David Bowie.