On Feb. 18, New York Post published a cartoon of two policemen who have just slain the author of the economic stimulus package -- a chimpanzee who lies in a pool of blood. The paper's defense was that the cartoon was just good-hearted fun, no harm intended to the African-American President who devised and signed the package.

Perhaps a better defense for this tabloid owned by the Murdoch media empire would be to hide behind its record of insensitivity and suggested violence toward people of color.

During the Democratic primaries in late May 2008, Murdoch's Fox TV News also aimed assassination humor at candidate Barack Obama. As co-anchor Liz Trotta signed off her “Fair and Balanced” news broadcast she urged that “somebody knock off Osama, um, Obama - well both, if we could.” So much for good night and good luck.

Later in the campaign, Republican rallies were attracting people who greeted Obama's name with shouts of “traitor” and “kill him.”

The past warns us that threats of violence against presidents are serious matters. Gunmen have taken the lives of four U.S. presidents: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy.

Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan narrowly escaped assassination attempts. Candidate Robert Kennedy was slain, and candidate George Wallace was severely wounded.

With a black President gunplay humor is hardly funny. After the Civil War, dozens of African-American officeholders in the South, along with their white political allies, were slain, beaten or driven from office by Ku Klux Klan nightriders.

A dozen years after Emancipation, massive intimidation and murder had nullified the civil rights laws, which had been enacted by Congress, and eviscerated three constitutional amendments designed to protect the lives and liberties of former slaves.

In the middle of the 20th Century, murders of white and African-American civil rights workers in the South aimed to block those marching toward justice, equality and voting rights. If we factor in lynching, violent opposition to African-Americans' pursuit of either public office or other citizenship rights has left a body count in the thousands.

Talk about acts of terrorism against Americans!

President Obama has warned us against continuing childish ways. Murdoch's media empire should curb its immature inclinations, if that's what they are. They are too dangerous for a democracy.

William Loren Katz, the author for 40 U.S. history books, is affiliated with New York University. His Web site is WILLIAMLKATZ.COM.

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