- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

President Bush yesterday sharply condemned the use of nooses as an intimidation tactic or as a joke, in remarks that clearly referenced a racially charged incident in Louisiana last fall.

“The noose is not a symbol of prairie justice, but of gross injustice. Displaying one is not a harmless prank. And lynching is not a word to be mentioned in jest,” Mr. Bush said at a White House celebration of Black History Month.

“As a civil society, we must understand that noose displays and lynching jokes are deeply offensive. They are wrong. And they have no place in America today,” Mr. Bush said to applause.

Mr. Bush made the comments just before he honored four distinguished black leaders and alluded to the display of a noose in Jena, La., in December 2006. The noose display at Jena High School was the stated reason behind the assault of a white student by six black students, who became known as the “Jena Six.”

Civil rights activists rallied behind the “Jena Six” after the juveniles were charged by a white prosecutor with attempted second-degree murder. The charges were later reduced.

Mr. Bush cited “a number of media reports about nooses being displayed” as the reason for his comments.

“These disturbing reports have resulted in heightened racial tensions in many communities. They have revealed that some Americans do not understand why the sight of a noose causes such a visceral reaction among so many people,” Mr. Bush said.

The four black leaders honored by the president were:

• Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, for his civil rights work.

• William Coleman, the first black to be a clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court and the first to hold a Cabinet post in a Republican administration, as secretary of transportation under President Ford.

• Ernest Green, the first black student to graduate from Central High School, in Little Rock, Ark., where federal troops had to force the school to integrate in 1957, three years after the Supreme Court struck down segregation in public schools.

• Otis Williams, lead singer of the Motown group the Temptations.

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