WASHINGTON U.S. President George W. Bush condemned as "deeply offensive" on Tuesday a spate of incidents involving the display of hangman's nooses, a potent symbol of racist lynchings and hatred of blacks in the United States.
Bush said there was still a long way to go for the country to unite on the issue of race.
"As a civil society, we must understand that noose displays and lynching jokes are deeply offensive," Bush said at a White House celebration of African-American history month. "They are wrong. And they have no place in America today."
Bush's remarks about race came as the U.S. capital and neighboring Virginia and Maryland held primary elections in which Democrats were deciding whether Sen. Barack Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, or Sen. Hillary Clinton, who would be the first woman to hold the office, should be the party's nominee in the November election.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said there had been more than 70 reports of incidents involving nooses since December 2006.
One high-profile incident earlier that year focused nationwide attention on Jena, Louisiana, where three nooses were found hanging from a tree at a high school.
Six black students were later charged with assaulting a white student at the school, sparking civil rights leaders to lead national protest marches and offer support for those facing the criminal charges.
A noose was found on the door of a black professor at Columbia University in New York, and two were found on the campus of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
The trend has even extended more recently into the golf world, when an anchor for the Golf Channel tried to joke that players bidding to challenge champion Tiger Woods, who is black, might have to "lynch him in a back alley." Shortly after that, Golfweek magazine fired an editor for depicting a noose on a cover last month for a story on the Woods incident.
Bush said some Americans fail to fully understand why the sight of a noose of a lynching remark sparks outrage.
"For generations of African-Americans, the noose was more than a tool of murder. It was a tool of intimidation that conveyed a sense of powerlessness to millions," he said.
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Patricia Zengerle)