Palin says efforts to lay blame 'reprehensible' and a 'blood libel'
January 12th, 2011
08:08 AM ET
3 years ago

Palin says efforts to lay blame 'reprehensible' and a 'blood libel'

(CNN) – Sarah Palin spoke out on the Arizona shootings Wednesday, calling the events “tragic” and sharply chastising those who have suggested charged rhetoric from her and others on the right may have motivated the killings.

“Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event,” Palin said in a video posted on her Facebook page.

“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election,” the former Alaska governor said.

Palin’s statements come in the wake of suggestions from some Democrats and media commentators that her political rhetoric over the last year may be linked in some way to the shooting Saturday that left Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition.

Some critics have cited a Facebook posting by Palin last march that placed a crosshair over several Democratic-controlled congressional districts, including that of Giffords. Palin also tweeted at the time: "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!"

But in her statement Wednesday, Palin said any effort to connect statements by her or others to the shootings amounts to "blood libel."

“Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible,” she said.

The term was initially used in the context of the Arizona shootings by conservative pundit Glenn Reynolds, who in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Monday characterized efforts to link the attacks to rhetoric on the right as a “blood libel.”

But the phrase itself invokes controversial connotations, referring to a long-standing anti-Semitic myth that Jews murder children for religious rituals. In present times, the term has come to be understood by some as any false accusation of murder and has recently been invoked by supporters of Israel in defense of charges the government was responsible for killing Palestinian civilians.

A Palin adviser had no further comment on the message.

Palin also suggested the charged political atmosphere of late differs little from that which has long dominated American politics.

“When was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial,” she said. “But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways.”

– CNN's Peter Hamby contributed to this report

Full statement

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.


Filed under: Sarah Palin
soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. Jett Lee

    Why so defensive, Sarah?

    January 12, 2011 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  2. LMC

    Nothing is ever Sarah's fault! She does have good speech writers!

    January 12, 2011 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  3. Vet For Obama

    I am in no way blaming Sarah Palin, nor anyone besides the criminal responsible for the crime. On the other hand, I must disagree with her comment that seems to blow off the power of negative speech. I have never seen more anger and hate than I do today. Hate filled speeches, after all helped fuel the crowd at one of her rallies to begin chanting "Kill Obama." Extreme falshoods also probably had something to do with gun toting rednecks showing up at Tea Party rallies, holding signs depicting Obama as Hitler, along with their guns.

    January 12, 2011 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  4. judith wright

    Language that incites violence or encourages what we have witnessed in Arizona is against the law. Why do people like Sarah Palin continue to hide their violent nature behind the right of free speech? Clearly crosshairs on a map is a blatant call to every off balance individual to take up arms.

    January 12, 2011 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  5. Debra

    She blames everybody but do not take blame for herself, she is no leader, go back to your bunker. She is the problem, not the solution.

    January 12, 2011 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  6. Andrew Hart

    Disregarding the fact that Palin's not bright enough to actually write this statement, it's clear that it's more important to her to justify her campaign rhetoric than to admit that she could tone down the violent imagery she uses, especially since she must realize that her base is comprised of more than a few mentally unbalanced members...

    January 12, 2011 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  7. adam

    Right sarah, YOU'RE the victim here.

    January 12, 2011 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  8. Iowaeyes

    WELL, this empty money hungry grubing user didn't write this ! She DID put a TARGET on Giffords' district and 19 others and left it on her website until this weekend. Hmmmmm. While the shooter is responsible...others are too. Including Sarah Halfwit Palin.

    January 12, 2011 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  9. Anonymous

    "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them...".

    These are the words of an ignorant, dangerous individual.

    January 12, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  10. JPB

    I can see you squirming from here Palin. You and your ilk ARE responsible for this! You may not have fired the gun but you supplied the bullets with your ugly and hate mongering rhetoric . The blood of Ms Gifford and all of the ijured and dead are on your hands. PLEASE GO AWAY!

    January 12, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. Jason

    I think Sarah Palin's reprehensible. That guy in Arizona shot the wrong person.

    January 12, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. Name American

    Sarah Palin, Two words for you " SHUT UP""!! Enough of you! Go back to Alaska and bury yourself in your house to where you belong...

    January 12, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  13. olivia61

    Palin is partly to blame. She incited with her devisive rederick all the already borerline crazys, racist and the special interest groups, the opportunist and the just plan ignorant..she did it all under the guise of restoring America and she attacks any and everyone while hidding behind Facebook and other media outlets where real people can't fight back. Palin throws the brick and hides her hands.

    January 12, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  14. Sharon Pless

    It seems now Sarah Palin understand words, even thought we have a right to speak them, they have consequences. Sarah you can't play the innocent role now. If you had been so considerate as you are now, evil minds would not have been so eager to pursue what you consider a passionate debate. You need to get serious Sarah and be reluctant to engraph violence as a way of being passionate about your type of politics. Cross targets, reload, pawing around with terroist this type sarcasm and vitriol really needs to stop. We don't contribute enough to MENTAL ILLINESS to substain the results. The incident of Arizona has been a long time coming. Let us do all we can to prevent other such incidents. Please!

    January 12, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  15. Corey

    I usually don't agree with anything out of Sarah Palin's mouth, but I tend to agree with her that blame lies with the individual responsible for the shootings.

    BUT,

    To say that the attempted murder of a Congresswoman isn't politically motivated is nonsense!

    January 12, 2011 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  16. Deet

    It is unbelievable that in the wake of this tragedy that Sarah Palin would take the opportunity to turn it into a discussion about the victimization of herself. When will this woman's fifteen minutes of fame end. Enough. Enough.

    January 12, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  17. Sick of Palin

    There is a reason why there are laws against inciting a riot. This woman has no idea that people in power can influence others around them. She is just as responsible for spewing hate and causing this tragedy as if she were standing there encouraging him to do it.

    January 12, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  18. Michael Baker

    Sorry, Sarah, spin it all you like. The blood of the 9 year old girl is on YOUR hands. Congratulations. Your followers followed your instructions and reloaded. Your followers targeted who you asked to be targeted.

    And calling them "survey marks" only fools the feeble-minded.

    I hope you get investigated by the FBI over this.

    January 12, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  19. ybs

    You have no problems with images like this, do you – got the point? (cut/past as URL) bit.ly/2012Palin
    When you rile up your base using these rhetoric & tactics, you have already lost your case.

    January 12, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  20. Qi

    only those that light a fire are at fault. There is no blame for those that piled the wood or poured gas on the pile. Real leaders take responsibility for their actions. I believe we are seeing the end of the Palin erra,

    January 12, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  21. sparky

    you stirred the pot with all you gun talk idiot. What? Did you think all your lemmings were responsible gun owners? You didn't think there'd be any nutjobs out there fist pumping at your "real America" speeches? You toot your flute and the rats follow. Ever hear the term "live by the gun die bie the gun". Well there ya go stupid

    January 12, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  22. Jeff In Ohio

    Short version: "I'm the victim here."

    January 12, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  23. judith wright

    Language that incites violence is against the law. Why do people like Sarah Palin continue to hide their violent nature behind the right of free speech? Clearly crosshairs on a map is a blatant call to every off balance individual to take up arms.

    January 12, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  24. Tam

    She should just go away to Alaska and take care of her kids. She has done more than enough already for and with America. Can't recognize it anymore.

    January 12, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  25. herpo Marx

    Don't retreat, reload.

    He failed to reload, therefore her wing of the political machine is not liable. It's physics.

    January 12, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13