A Norfolk float builder who sparked controversy over the acceptable limits of political expression says people have misinterpreted the float.
Dale Remmich, a Norfolk-area farmer, says that was him, not President Barack Obama, on the float outside an outhouse with “Obama Presidential Library” on the side.
“The caricature on the float was depicting me. Yes, I’ve got my bibs on. Yes, I’m turning green. Yep, I guess I look like a zombie,” Remmich tells Paul Hughes with Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WJAG. “But, what I do want to make sure people understand is I am not a hate monger, I am not a racist, and I am not trying to be disrespectful of the presidency.”
AUDIO: Dale Remmich on float. :30
The float set off a firestorm of controversy over the limits of freedom of expression versus respect for the presidency. It became a popular topic in social media and caught the attention of national media.
The float was part of the Norfolk Odd Fellow 4th of July Parade. It drew cheers and jeers as it passed by, with one observer saying those applauding the float drowned out those objecting to it.
The Nebraska Democratic Party called it racist.
Remmich insists it was political satire, not racism. Two incidents sparked Remmich’s criticism of President Obama’s administration: the Veterans Administration scandal and the president’s approval of a swap of Taliban officials for a solider Remmich calls a deserter.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered an investigation of its health care services in wake of reports that veterans have endured extremely long waits for care and that some have even died while awaiting care.
“The biggest thing that precipitated me to do the float was in relation to veterans and the VA and the treatment that our service men are getting,” according to Remmich. “So, I think about the veterans and I have three very dear friends who are under VA care or lack of right now.”
AUDIO: Remmich on VA scandal. :25
Remmich says President Obama’s recent prisoner exchange also angered him. The Obama Administration agreed to exchange five Taliban officials held at Guantanamo Bay for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who Remmich calls a deserter.
Paul Hughes, WJAG, contributed to this report.