Palin says efforts to lay blame 'reprehensible' and a 'blood libel'
January 12th, 2011
08:08 AM ET
4 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. PAUL W!

    Glad to see she is taking time to politicize the deaths of six people, including a 9 year old girl. YOU GOT A LOT OF CLASS SARAH!

    January 12, 2011 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  2. Robert Williams

    Totally agree, on target! (just a metophor guys)

    January 12, 2011 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  3. neil

    She's lying and a lie.She has blood on her hands in this incident.For the last two years she has traversed the country spewing hatred and lies and incendary rhetoric.This woman needs to be put away.I for one am mad as hell about these people and their refusal to accept any guilt.Make no mistake they are guilty and Palin is the main proponet.They have created an atmosphere of hatred distrust and division and I don't want to hear about their innocence.Beck,Limmbaugh and Palin need to be dropped from our civil discourse for their actions.

    January 12, 2011 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  4. Ken in NC

    I wrote a long article in response to this woman’s comments but decided she isn't worth a response. Simply said, I hope she crawls back into her hole and stays there until hell freezes over. I know that even this idiot didn't put those crosshairs on districts so someone could cause them harm, however, she isn't stupid. She realized that her actions and her display could be taken out of context. She just assumed no one would blame her for the acts of a mental case out there that causes a problem. I admit that she did not conspire with anyone to cause another harm but clearly her actions and those of others could have contributed to one making the decision to take an action based on what they herd from her or from the words she has spoken.

    January 12, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  5. Amanda

    I find this response sickening. I don't really detect any real reflection on the toxic climate of politics in this nation nor any responsibility for repeatedly contributing to that climate. I'm sure it is terrible to have people calling you on the carpet, especially your opponents. But I think Sarah should keep in mind that there are also American people who thinks she may have contributed to an atmosphere that made this tragedy possible. Sometimes, being a strong leader means correcting your errors, even for the sake of people you hurt. This is no longer about politics, for goodness sake!!! There are people dead, even a child . If there is the perception that her actions even remotely could have contributed to loss of life through violence, the noble and classy thing to do would be to apologize and take responsibility. Defending herself by quoting Reagan, making references to dueling with pistols and past elections just reeks of "politics as usual". It seems classless in its tone. I think she missed an opportunity to be a STRONGER leader.

    January 12, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  6. runner305

    So...it's ok to put crosshairs on someone in a political ad. That's right...crosshairs of a gun, and shout "reload", and when a crazy person acts on it, then we hide behind the 1st amendment? Hey Sarah, wanna yell "fire" in a crowded theater as well?

    January 12, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  7. GetOverIt

    Way to wash your hands of responsibility. Oh yeah, she'll make a great chief executive.

    January 12, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  8. sinzbad

    she has still not apologized for her violent rhetoric. she is such a tool!

    January 12, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  9. Dave

    Once again, we have the biggest mouth and smallest brain in Alaska playing the victim card. No one said it's her fault, but her rhetoric and that of the angry, obnoxious right contributes to the climate where tragedies like this happen. I know one thing is for sure, if the shoe were on the other foot, she would be the first person pointing the finger.

    January 12, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  10. Gianni

    Uh...nice try, Palin. The fact remains that you ARE partly responsible for this particular crime. TAKE SOME PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT...

    January 12, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  11. opbilly

    nice try, but playing the victim does not cut it. first i dont believe this was written by her but for her. her attempt to scew the facts of her words is outrageous! second, she has incited violence so much it disgusts me. third, this isnt the first time someone from fox has incited this type of act. anyone remember bill o reilly going after doctor tiller nite after nite and giving out his address. this is the same type situation. sad very sad.

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

    Palin, why are you retreating and not reloading?

    January 12, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  13. Gregory Parker

    She is too stupid to get it. No one is saying her comments or any one comments actually caused this man to do what he did. The point is that words do have some consequences. People on the edge hear the rhetoric and think they might not be so out of the main stream. Some may think that if they act, as this man did, they will be viewed and heroes by those whose words have been, at best, ambiguous. People who are fringe need to know that is where they are, and putting targets on districts may cause them to think their insanity is more rational than it is. "RELOAD" does not mean vote. And a cross hair like the one on her website is NOT a surveyor's symbol. I have been a surveyor and a hunter for 35 years. That is a cross hair. It pin points a target! Don't lie.

    January 12, 2011 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  14. C Smith

    Palin, why don't you give an actual interview. Because you are a coward. You can send emails through Beck or release a video but you know that what you did throughout the midterms elections was wrong and you are terrified for being called out on it. This was the end of your much overhyped political career. Now please leave America alone.

    January 12, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  15. RKN

    We have not had calls to take to the streets to "take back our country" before the 2008 election. We did not have candidates calling on people to exercise their "second amendment rights" to regain the country until Ms Palin said it.
    Actions do not come in a vacuum. While this shooter may not have had any political affiliation the atmosphere created by images of targets and gun sites, by calls to take to the streets and use guns to take control will only serve to make murder easier to justify. The politicians did not pull the trigger, they made the idea of pulling the trigger look reasonable.

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

    Spin it however you like Sarah. Sure, you did not pull the trigger but your form of politics is nothing but toxic to this great country. I hope you learned something from this tragedy...time will tell.

    January 12, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  17. MrBig

    No Sarah, putting your political opponents in gun cross hairs on your website with this nation's history of assassination is irresponsible. Gabrielle Giffords thought so too. Unfortunately she paid the ultimate price for your mean spirited b.s. I think Gabrielle Giffords put it much more eloquently than I could, when she slammed Sarah Palin for putting her in her gun cross hairs and expressed how this not so veiled threat of violence made her fear for her personal safety...

    "We need to realize that the rhetoric, and the firing people up and ... for example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we're in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize that there are consequences to that action..."

    – Gabrielle Giffords

    January 12, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  18. Pat

    The only possible good that may come out of this tragedy is that Sarah Palin's political career is irreparably broken.

    January 12, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  19. Ed - NH

    This idoit needs to just keep her mouth shut. She is a hateful, greedy peice of garbage whose relevance is finally fading off. Maybe others like her will follow suit and we can start to return this country to civility.

    January 12, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  20. Observer

    She's such an ignoramus that she still doesn't get it. She is contributing to a hostile environment that can have terrible consequences, whether it has happened in Tucson or not.

    January 12, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  21. Irma in North Carolina

    It was so nice not seeing your face on her for a few days, but you are back again. Was this supposed to be an apology or what? Whoi wrote this for you? And how much did you have to pay them? You dont have the mental capicty to write some thing like this. Are you going to deny that you put the cross hairs or the bullet right over her district and she made a statement that things like this will have consqences and look what happenned. Are you going to deny that people had guns strapped on them at presidendial events?? Are you going to deny that people at your rallys had nasty signs about the preidident? Sarah how can you live with your self knowing that people died from this? May i ask how would you feel if this was one of your family? Did you not go into a frenzy when that writer moved in next door? The only way to stop you is that the media news outlets and talks shows never again print any thing you say or give you any kind of coverage at your events. I hope they wake up and see what your lies and hate has done to this country of ours.

    January 12, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  22. David Fleming

    I don't understand how discussing what role rhetoric like "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!" (a tweet from Palin after the last election) has in gun violence is anything but debating their vision.

    For example, I propose that people don't use violent terms colloquially because mentally unstable people might take that to be a directive to kill someone. That's a better idea, and clearly part of a spirited debate.

    It seems Palin likes the debate, so long as it doesn't challenge anything negatively about her. Funny, that.

    January 12, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  23. sonny

    Either she has an evil mind or totally stupid brain not to understand the consequences of her words. I see her not as a politician because she does not have any qualities to label as a politician. The more she speaks more it sounds dumb and idiotic. She is beyond correctable...

    January 12, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  24. Alex

    Typical Palin –
    She refers to symbolisms of violence in heated rhetoric during elections, one of the many her her "cross hairs" gets shot, and now she plays the victim.

    Will the obscence ignorance of this woman never end?

    January 12, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  25. Rick - Former Marine, Liberal

    What BS! There is a need to take responsibility for words, pictures, and actions. Bullseyes on congressional districts, no matter who draws them is NOT acceptable. Saying a consultant did it is again, shirking responsibility. Another example, "take up our arms" is clearly a loaded phrase that is misunderstood, especially when some of these candidates were talking about second amendment solutions, etc.

    All people that release public statements, interviews, documents in a campaign or in a political arena have to tone it down and take responsibility for their actions.

    January 12, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
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