NORFOLK, Neb. -- A float that was in Norfolk's 4th of July parade on Friday had mixed reactions on what many believe was a portrayal of President Barack Obama. Its creator now says the mannequin is supposed to be him, not President Obama.
The float sparked controversy when a mannequin dressed in overalls was mistaken to be a portrayal of President Obama. The mannequin standing outside a wooden outhouse that says "Obama Presidential Library."
Some were outraged and said it was an act of racism, while others viewed it as a harmless joke.
10/11's radio partner in Norfolk US92 talked to the creator of the float, rural Norfolk resident and veteran H. Dale Remmich. Remmich said he's sorry for the misconception.
Remmich told the radio station, "It's me. I've got on my bibs. Yes, I've got my walker. I'm turning green and some say I look like a zombie. But I am not a hate-monger and I'm not a racist."
Remmich added he did not mean any disrespect for the presidency. He also said one of the reasons that contributed to the making of the float is the ongoing issues of the Veteran's Affairs administration.
"I have three very close friends that are under VA care, or lack there of it, right now."
Remmich said the second reason he constructed the float was because he was disappointed with the government's handling of the Bergdahl scandal. "I tried to use political satire as best I could, but to be honest with you it's mostly political disgust, simply no more or no less."
Monday the City of Norfolk City Council and staff released a statement after many concerned parade-goers complained to them about the float. They tell 10/11 News that the city only issued a permit for the parade, but did not sponsor or coordinate the event.
"We recognize and respect our citizens' differing political beliefs and their rights to express them freely: however, we are disappointed that the occasion of this family-friendly celebration of America's birth was used in a way that disparaged the office of the president. As an open and inclusive city, we have a responsibility to foster an environment of free exchange but also one of civility, courtesy, and decency. We are a community of people who work hard, help our neighbors, welcome newcomers and teach our kids the value of respect and responsibility. This incident and the controversy it caused does not reflect the character and spirit of our city or out state, and we hope to demonstrated that to all who are open to giving us the opportunity," said Mayor Sue Fuchtman.
The Norfolk Lodge #46 IOOF puts on the parade which Secretary Ron Christ said raises money for Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
He told 10/11 parade organizers don't see the entries until the morning of the parade. Entries must meet the rule that it's not obscene or inappropriate as far as nudity or language.
Christ said it doesn't matter whether the float is religious or political, it's about free speech and press and it's the IOOF's policy not to discriminate.
Christ said they've had people make comments in the past about entries that were overly religious in nature, but organizers never censored entries.
Sunday both the Nebraska Democratic Party and GOP issued statements about the parade float.
Executive Director of the NDP, Dan Marvin said, “We have seen many times when Nebraskans disapproved of the President, but this clearly crosses the line.” Marvin continued saying, “There is a level of respect for the office of the Presidency which should not be crossed. It’s beyond disappointing the City of Norfolk, its officials, and citizens would allow such a thing.”
Executive Director of the Nebraska GOP Bud Synhorst said, "The Party doesn't condone this action. It's a form of expression that could have been done more tastefully."