Obama-like target in carnival game stirs outrage

Posted: August 05, 2010

Because of what he now calls "an error in judgment," a Lehigh Valley carnival operator has sparked an outcry by running at summer church carnivals and fire department fund-raisers a shooting-gallery game that featured a President Obama-like figure.

"I didn't think it was offensive, and you know, I made the wrong judgment on it," Irvin L. Good Jr., 68, said Wednesday. "And that's all I can say about it. We did away with it, and I'm apologizing to everybody in the world, I think."

Good, who has operated Goodtime Amusements in Hellertown for 26 years, said he used the Alien Attack game for about five weeks without hearing complaints.

Then, at a July 24 carnival at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Roseto, Kathryn Chapman, there with her family, noticed that one of the win-a-prize painted targets was a black man wearing a suit with a rolled-up "health bill" in one hand - and an eagle-emblazoned belt buckle reading, "The Prez Says."

Chapman, who said she was a third-grader at Our Lady of Mount Carmel's school on the day President John F. Kennedy was shot, said seeing children and adults shooting at the target conjured up bad memories.

"That was incredibly disturbing to me that they would have this type of carnival game for children to be able to play," said Chapman, now a mother living in Massachusetts. "Even little kids, third- and fourth-graders, a lot of kids know who the president of the United States is."

She said she complained to Good and got nowhere. So she took photos and sent them to the Easton Express-Times newspaper.

After pictures of the carnival target appeared on the Internet Tuesday, criticism came in from near and far. By Wednesday, scores of Web postings denounced Good, and some of his Northampton County neighbors were voicing anger.

"He should be put out of business," Esther M. Lee, president of the Bethlehem chapter of the NAACP, told The Inquirer on Wednesday. "We shouldn't go around targeting the president of the United States as though he were some dumbbell."

In his defense, Good pointed out that the carnival target had alien antennae and bore little resemblance to Obama.

"The face didn't look like him or anything like that," Good said. "It wasn't designed to be that way. I guess you could see a likeness to it if you wanted to."

The NAACP's Lee said Good should have known what the figure represented. "He knew what he was doing," she said. "It's not right. . . . It's not funny, and he ought to pay."

The Secret Service routinely asks questions in such instances. Good would not say whether the agency had called him. "I can't comment on that," he said. "Not until after tomorrow." A Secret Service spokesman also declined to comment.

Good, a registered Republican, said he voted for Obama as "the most logical choice" in 2008. Obama's performance has been "adequate under the situation of what he came in under," he added.

"I wouldn't want his job. That's for sure," he said. "Maybe he wouldn't want mine either, right now."

Contact staff writer Derrick Nunnally at 610-313-8212 or dnunnally@phillynews.com.

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