c) Allegations of a Ku Klux Klan
One of the most widely publicized allegations of racism involved a skit in the 1990 Redneck of the Year contest, in which one person dressed in an imitation Ku Klux Klan outfit and another appeared with a blackened face.
The Redneck of the Year contest for the 1990 Roundup was held on Saturday night. As part of that contest an officer from the Florence Police Department donned a mock Ku Klux Klan outfit made out of a white sheet and marked by black and red markers. A civilian, a friend of an officer from Boone County, blackened his face with shoe polish and had a rope around his neck. An officer from Boone County acted as emcee.
The emcee announced that officers from Kentucky were performing the skit. The emcee led the black-faced individual onto the stage while the "Klansman" had a dog. The emcee asked the "Klansman" whether he would like to trade the dog for his slave, "Toey." The Klansman inquired whether the slave would perform oral sex for him. When he was assured that he would, the trade was made. The slave then simulated oral sex on the Klansman. The Klansman, using a dildo carved from wood, then sprayed some white substance, either whipped cream or shaving cream, into the audience.
Some in the crowd laughed. Hayward said he thought the skit was "quite funny." Others did not. Many witnesses said they left during the skit and did not wait to see what happened because they were disgusted. Rightmyer met the "players" as they walked off the stage. Several witnesses, including officers from the same departments as the players, said Rightmyer angrily told them he did not want such activity at the Roundup. Some witnesses recalled Rightmyer saying things such as, "We're not going to have any more of this crap!" They also remembered him telling people that he would not tolerate such behavior and if they disagreed, they could "hit the pike." Rightmyer said he was extremely angry and he was confident that the skit performers knew he was upset. While some witnesses said Rightmyer gave a speech to the whole crowd that the skit was unacceptable, Rightmyer did not recall doing so. He did believe, however, that he yelled at the participants loudly enough that others in the vicinity would have heard. He conceded that he did not punish them in any way and did not ask them to leave.
We interviewed the emcee for the skit. Although he attempted to downplay his role, he admitted his participation and identified the Klansman. [ / According to news reports, the emcee has since received a five-day suspension from the Boone County Police Department for his role in the skit. See, Kristi Bowden, Boone officer punished, The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 28, 1995, at D1. ] He identified the person in blackface by first name only, saying he was a civilian friend of a fellow officer. The Klansman refused our requests for an interview but answered a number of written questions. He would not, however, answer any questions regarding the skit or the checkpoint sign. [ / A news report indicated that the Klansman has since been suspended without pay for six months and had his Sergeant's stripes taken away for his role in the skit and other misconduct unrelated to the Roundup. See, Nancy Blackmore, Cop demoted for racist skit; Florence officer 2nd disciplined in N.Ky., The Cincinnati Enquirer, February 11, 1996, at B1. ] We eventually identified the civilian who played the role of the slave. He has admitted his role in the skit but refused to be interviewed in person by OIG investigators.
(ii) OIG findings
OIG concludes that the KKK skit occurred along the lines reported in the July 11 Washington Times article that broke the story. Contrary to claims by Richard
Hayward, however, the participants in the skit were not ATF agents. Rather, OIG concludes that officers from the Florence and Boone County police departments and a civilian from Ohio were the performers of the KKK skit.
We further conclude that after the performance, Rightmyer did not ask the responsible players to leave or ban them from future Roundups. He said he did not do so because it was their first time at the Roundup, he thought they understood that their behavior was not well-received and so would not repeat it, and he felt the crowd understood that he did not want such behavior. Although many in the crowd heard his angry denunciation, it was not addressed generally to the audience. [ / This skit so stood out, however, that numerous persons who did not even attend in 1990 heard about it in subsequent years. These same people invariably heard that Rightmyer had put a stop to it. ]
Although he apparently censured other attendees in different years by imposing on them "do betters" or "probation" for wrestling or for being gross, he did not take such action against either the signmakers or the skit players. Thus, while Rightmyer appears to have acted swiftly to denounce the racist behavior, his message was diluted by the failure to follow through with more severe punishment. This lack of punishment may have been a factor in the recurrence of similar acts in subsequent years.