President Biden speaks to a crowd at a rally at the Pratt Pullman Yard in Atlanta on Saturday. Kendrick Brinson for The Washington Post

A Republican fundraiser in the Kansas City suburbs on Friday night at which attendees beat and kicked an effigy of President Biden has sparked bipartisan outrage and calls for the GOP leaders responsible for the event to resign.

At the “Grand Ol’ Party” fundraising event at the Overland Park Convention Center – hosted by and promoted on the Facebook page of the Johnson County Republican Party – attendees paid $100 to $300 a ticket to hear a keynote speech from musician Ted Nugent. It also featured a booth where attendees kicked and swung a foam bat at a mannequin topped with a rubber Biden mask, posts on social media showed.

The chairwoman of the Johnson County Republican Party told the Kansas City Star in an email that the effigy had been set up as part of a booth hosted by a local martial arts school.

“This booth was hosted by a Karate school to promote their self defense class,” Johnson County Republican Party Chair Maria Holiday said in an email to the news organization.

Holiday later told The Washington Post that the event was “tarnished by a brief incident where a mask depicting President Biden was added to an interactive self-defense display. The mask was regrettable and removed.” No one collected funds or donations for hitting the “training device,” she said.

The incident – first reported by the nonprofit nonpartisan news website Kansas Reflector – prompted widespread condemnation and calls for Republican officials to resign.


The state GOP issued a statement Monday that said “it’s unfortunate the events took place.” But it blamed the incident on an outside exhibitor and a former state party member who “created a false narrative in order to spew rhetoric and capitalize on continued attempts to divide the party.” No state party officials attended the event, the statement said.

On Saturday, Overland Park lawyer Mike Kuckelman, a former chairman of the state Republican Party, said in a Facebook post that guests at the event had been “invited to beat the effigy of Biden with a baseball bat in exchange for a donation.”

“This conduct is shameful, and it is WRONG,” Kuckelman wrote, calling for Holiday and state GOP chairman Mike Brown to resign. “Silence is complicity in this case,” the lawyer added.

Kuckelman said in an interview Monday that “it’s very disappointing as a Republican to see such a vile and disgusting display of violence against a mannequin of President Biden. It’s just wrong, and there’s no explanation for that type of conduct.”

“The only people who are engage in this type of conduct are extremists who should be called out and shamed,” he said.

Kuckelman said he was surprised no GOP officials had yet apologized for the event.


“I think they’re standing firm that it was okay for them to do this, and it’s really disturbing,” he said.

In his post, Kuckelman referred to the 2017 incident in which comedian Kathy Griffin posed with a Donald Trump mask made to look like a bloody, severed head – a gesture that was widely condemned and severely damaged Griffin’s career.

Prasanth Reddy, a Johnson County oncologist and Republican running for Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes the suburb where the event occurred, said in a post on X that “ridiculous, thoughtless actions like this distract from those trying to deliver solutions.”

State Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Democrat from Johnson County, called on GOP elected officials to condemn the effigy incident.

“It’s disgusting,” Sykes said in an interview. “This is invoking violence, and we should not be doing this. We can disagree on policy, but to have something where people are attacking with a bat [an effigy] resembling our president, that crosses the line and never should have happened.”

Both Kuckelman and Sykes said the initial video – now removed – was posted on Rumble by the account MolonLabeTruth, which frequently posts content from the Johnson County Republican Party. The poster could not be reached for comment.

The effigy incident comes during what is expected to be a highly charged 2024 campaign season, in which the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Trump, is facing felony charges over his actions to overturn the 2020 presidential election before his supporters’ riot on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.

Potential violence against members of Congress, judges and other leaders is a growing concern, the Justice Department has said. In recent months, law enforcement has been forced to grapple with bomb threats against state capitols and “swatting” – where prank calls are made to summon law enforcement to a particular address – of elected officials from both major parties.

In January, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the wave of threats against government workers and public servants a “deeply disturbing spike.”

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