In which carnival barkers reject the tag that a thoughtless president tossed at them.
When discussing the lingering “birther” controversy, Obama remarked: “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
Many in the carnival community were not amused by the mention of their industry.
“I am extremely upset by the reference,” said Frank Zaitshik, who runs Wade Shows, a carnival business with over 100 amusement rides and attractions that entertains over 15 million people each year.
Zaitshik, a second generation carnival worker — a term he prefers to the word “carny,” which is used as a pejorative — has spent much of his life battling negative stereotypes about his industry.
Another would have the leader of the free world know that “barkers” is really a pretty dated reference, champ.
Although Obama’s comments bring to mind visions of crooked hustlers, rigged games and a “Step right up!” style of showmanship, carnival insiders say the so-called mobile entertainment industry has cleaned up its act in recent decades. Weber’s boss, Matt Cook, says Obama’s comments aren’t reflective of the current industry.
“The reference to ‘carnival barkers’ and ‘sideshows’ is really a thing of the past,” Cook said. “It’s not like the olden days. The carnival industry has modernized and is more high-tech. In fact, there are very few barkers or sideshows these days.”
Clearly, the president acted stupidly and hurt many with his careless remarks. But he can make good:
If Obama wants to make it up to Baker, he said he’s got just the solution.
“I think the President should come see our show,” he said. “We’ll let him in for the kid’s price. Maybe we can use his birth certificate as the ‘blow-off,’ which is the extra entertainment that’s not officially part of the show.”