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. caramiamy

    I don't think she is responsible for the actions of a killer. However, I do think she and many others (including anonymous rants on the internet) are responsible for the encouragement of rage. How individuals choose to process their rage is their own decision.

    January 12, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  2. militantdem

    And, of course, Sarah did not write this article – she can't construct a grammatically correct sentence. In other words, some had to write this for her. Typical......

    January 12, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  3. Tony

    Sarah Palin's actions before this occurred is what is reprehensible (she had help spelling that word!).

    She stirred the pot and cooked the meal, now she has to take responsibility (she doesn't know how to spell this word either!) for it.

    She is a would-be tyrant, and appeasement of a tyrant is never a good idea. The media and other politicians need to stop walking on egg shells around her and call her out. If they did, her and her money would disappear back into the wilderness of Alaska. And that is where she belongs.

    Stop treating this woman like she is some sage of wisdom. She is a know-nothing, racist rabble-rouser leading a pack of Anarchists.

    She is NOT a patriot, her actions are against everything America stands for.

    January 12, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  4. acura2010

    Sarah Palin, we condem you. Your colorful rhetoric is stoking violence in this country. Under no shape form or fashion can you be a representative of christianity.

    January 12, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  5. G. R.R.

    Darn it. Her only chance of getting the republican nod is to simply shut up.

    January 12, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  6. FM

    What is the husband of Sarah (Todd) doing there?? I thought he is her main adviser. With all her explanation here it looks like she is there totally alone in the wilderness without anyone telling her don't do/say that!!! What a blander!!!

    January 12, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  7. Big Bad Bubba J

    OK show of hands, who actually believes she wrote this herself? Anyone? Bueller?

    January 12, 2011 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  8. Mountaineer

    Sarah Palin needs to understand that her words and comments have consequences whether she or any of the media understands it or not! No one is blaming her directly but these hatred comments about shooting, Reload, and Target practice is not what our so-called leaders should be using to get their message out! If only Palin and these people had lost loved ones to these useless shootings and murder, then she and they would understand where many of us are coming from. Hate speech is hate speech and these politicians accused democrats of Death Panels and all kind of lies to stir up their people, knowing they were lies. Now, we have a mental patient shooting 20 people, and we can't even get the Congress to do the right thing on Gun Control and how much bullets is too much! This country is in the sewer and Hell, contrary to all God stands for. That has not beeen addressed by the Religious Right or the Tea-Partiers who claim they are on the right side of this argument. Where is your sense of right!

    January 12, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  9. Name unsung

    She is only speaking out today, because our president Obama will be speaking today, it's always about her, 4 days of silence, and today of days she's trying to turn the spot light away from her, the damage is done, she came out and spoke mean of our president on the very day of the shooting, about him being hell bent on destroying America, you are done MISS 15 MINUTES!!!!!!

    January 12, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  10. art

    So much for the party of "personal responsibility".

    January 12, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  11. militantdem

    And, of course, Sarah did not write this article – she can't construct a grammatically correct sentence. In other words, someone had to write this for her. Typical......

    January 12, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  12. nam

    A rather weak statement. I guess no one wants to say that they will stop trying to be cute and tone down their rhetoric and focus on civil debate and improving this democracy. BTW– Sarah - you made your bed now you are going to have to sleep in it for awhile. Hopefully when you awake you will act like someone worthy of our attention and vote.

    January 12, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    I wonder how she feels about her friend Bachman's idea to bring back HUAC to investigate members of Congress whose ideas Bachman finds "un-american"? Palin's statement, however well-delivered, does not square with her past comments about declaring some areas and people "more American" than others, to name just a few. She needs to demonstrate better behavior going forward, not just apologize and revert back to type at the first available opportunity. If she and others across the political spectrum will show more civil behavior in the future, than the lives lost and damaged in Arizona will have had some positive impact rather than to serve as yet another symbol of our inability to bridge minute differences.

    January 12, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  14. bdm

    it was "reprehensible" that ms. palin posted a map with cross hairs over ms. giffords' seat inviting people to "reload" rather than retreat. one has to wonder how ms. palin would have felt if ms. giffords had put a cross hair over ms. palin's district. ms. palin's choice of words was reckless and lacked judgment. she can cry foul all she wants but it just is what it is.

    January 12, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  15. Andi

    Gee. Sarah can dish it out but can't take it? As a Christian you should know that words do carry weight. Free speech yes. But it all comes with consequences.

    January 12, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  16. slipthalo

    While there is no proof that any of the rhetoric led to these shootings, it's time for those in the public eye – whether it be in the political arena, TV or on radio – to pull back on the heated statements. How do we actually know what prompted the shootings? How do we know the rhetoric didn't or could have led to them? If not this time, what about the next time? No backpedaling should be accepted, clean up your acts.

    January 12, 2011 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  17. Dave

    No one is interested in what you have to say, Mrs. Palin. Congresswoman Giffords predicted something like this could happen when you put up that website. No one said you pulled the trigger or bought the gun but you bear the responsibility of creating the atmosphere (just like the rest of the goofy left and right wing extremist nuts on the airwaves) that can propel unbalanced people to this type of horrific action. I realize that you are now trying to salvage what is left of a dying political career but it is too late. Hopefully the events of Saturday have caused the world to move beyond your kind and to a new era.

    January 12, 2011 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  18. larry

    She just doesn't get it or feel it's in her best political interest to admit she made a mistake with that crosshair posting.

    January 12, 2011 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  19. John Smith

    She's lecturing on responsiblity? What do you call quitting in the middle of your term?

    January 12, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  20. Ted

    so says the irresponsible mud-slinger Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska who resigned before she completed her term, who's taken the big bucks and wants even more, Sarah the right-wing target maker, may you devolve into oblivion

    January 12, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  21. HackyZac

    Apology accepted I guess? If that's the best we're gonna get...I guess its OK to threaten with physical violence in political campaigns then?

    Democrats: Lock and Load!
    Republicans: Bring the heat!

    Why debate policy when you can just rattle your saber?

    January 12, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  22. luvthyneighbor

    How does this woman expect to get any respect when all she does is lay blame. She doesn't even have the guts to make a statement in public. Does she think she can hide behind her social media wall forever???

    January 12, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  23. Dan

    Sarah, please admit, considering our country's past that you suddenly seem so versed in, that it is also irresponsible to use gun sights to "target" members of congress and to "reload". Then many in the country may begin to take you seriously.

    January 12, 2011 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  24. mangoz

    What Palin fails to recoginize is that mentally ill persons ARE affected by what they hear and in a lot of cases "act" on it. She is ignorant to the fact that in the real world we are saturated with the media on a minute by minute basis. When you have the media and talk show hosts constantly foaming at the mouth on political issues it can be a lot like "waterboarding" those who are mentally weak. Her comments and others like her just goes to show that her "type" of politics and rhetoric will never change. She is more interested in making money and to do that she must incite others with total disregard as to the case and effect .

    January 12, 2011 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  25. Otter

    Translation: "It's all about ME!"

    January 12, 2011 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
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