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. pprty

    "The thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district," Giffords said in March. "When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action." Sarah Palin incited hatred & violence.

    January 12, 2011 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  2. IVOTE

    Representative Gabrielle Giffords said it all when she spoke on Sarah Palins use of crosshairs on her Democratic target map. Sarah can't run away from her own spoken words using her shrill voice. Too late.

    January 12, 2011 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  3. donna rochester

    Please go away, you vacuous, evil woman. What exactly do you do other than provoke and incite anger? Tucson is a wonderful town filled with wonderful people. We don't need you to tell us how to grieve. Those affected by this terrible tragedy were highly accomplished, compassionate people who actually worked towards good, rather than the evil that you and those like you espouse. Your 15 minutes is over, please just go away.

    January 12, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Rick

    I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. I think she has been a political opportunist and very reckless in her tactics. I haven't liked much of anything she has said in the past, but her text in this response was well said. I hope she is really sincere in this and has learned from this incident to change her tactics. She would not have been a focal point of blame if it wasn't for her vitriol and rhetoric. Something tells me though this was a well worked draft by her attorneys and staff. Its missing all the you betchas so I know its really not her own words.

    January 12, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  5. Vahan

    Walk it back half termer, walk it all back. You are an idiotic moron and your stupid is catching up to you.

    January 12, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  6. Mark

    I have nothing against Sarah personally, but in listening to her speak and then reading this, I cannot for the life of me believe she wrote this. It also introduces a new term "blood libel", is that some form of veiled threat of litigation for those that question any connection to violence? While I do not think the left or right specifically drove the man to these killings, it seems strange that Palin is the only one to be defending the current climate.

    January 12, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  7. HeyZeus

    Sorry Caribou, But you have some responsibility in this. No matter what your 'intentions' were, as a politician in America you have culpability with the words and images that your put out for public consumption. It has been long known that mentally unstable people follow 'instructions' given them, and putting targets on the faces of others are just the instructions that some people need to complete their deadly task. You, nor any of your cohorts, are forgiven in this. One can only hope this will lead to a change in the rhetoric of the party of war and destruction.

    I wonder though, when you, Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, or O'Reilly go to sleep do you sleep soundly? From the actions of all of you in the last few days, it seems like none of this affects any of you at all. This is a shame and a relief, as now we are assured that you are not the people we want in charge.

    January 12, 2011 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  8. Mike

    First of all, she's an idiot. That being said, does anyone really believe she even remotely put that statement together? Her brain power could toast bread......lightly. I don't blame her for what happened, but both sides could benefit by ratcheting down the rhetoric.

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. John

    There never will be a connection between those two facts. But there is no denying that Palin was an instigator. She should apologize. "Don't retreat. APOLOGIZE!"

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  10. PublicEnemy

    Ha! What crap from that idiot loathsome Palin. Maybe she'll get crosshaired!

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  11. Deedles

    Ridiculous! You've added to and often started the hateful rhetoric that's out there. Own it. And stop it!

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  12. GI Joe

    $arah obsesses over hate, fear, division, money - and CNN obsesses over Palin. STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT !!!!!

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  13. Obama is, always will be my President

    Nothing we say will bring this little nine year old child back, or the rest of the dead, just stop the hate. I am sick and tired of hearing the hated words. God tell us to love everyone as well as our self.

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  14. Fed Up

    Yes, it is reprehensible. There is one person that's responsible for this, maybe two, and it looks like he will get off. Gotta love our justice system.

    January 12, 2011 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  15. Phillip Bunn

    When all else is said and done; when all philosophical, religious, political and social agendas, for and against America, have been discussed and re-discussed for the thousandth time, one unadulterated fact still remains intact: Sarah Palin is an idiot.

    January 12, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  16. Christopher

    As a Republican I find whatever the former governor has to say of little interest. She does not represent a good majority of our views. She is obessed with the limelight and is not worthy of our interest. Crosshairs may be appropriate to hunting but not for political opponents. Where is the civil discourse we expect of our leaders and especially when the mantle of Ronald Reagan is periodically brought up. I doubt sincerely that President Reagan would have stooped her loathsome tactics. We will all be better off when she fades from the scene and hopefully someone with more intelligence steps out of the shadows.

    January 12, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good.
    -------------------------------------------------–
    THAT WOULD BE YOU SARAH.
    You and your cohorts passing themselves off as modern day RethugliKKKlans.

    January 12, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  18. Kathy

    Oh please stop Ms. Palin. If you're target map wasn't so wrong- then put it back up. I dare you. Either put up or shut up.you're becoming a bore......

    January 12, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  19. Matt

    First her campaign uses violent language and symbols to run a divisive and hateful campaign. Then she casts herself as the victim when her influence has an (allegedly) unintended consequence.

    Sarah, we don't need "God's guidance"... some common sense would be sufficient.

    January 12, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  20. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    How come Granny Sarah Grizzly says she is a "Hockey Mom" if none of her kids play hockey?

    January 12, 2011 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  21. Cliff

    Palin is always the victim. How about just saying she is sorry for her violent, corrosive speech and that she'll tone it down in the future.

    January 12, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  22. David Gibson

    After watching and reading about Ms. Palin I doubt that she came up with this speech. It was probably the work of a very talented professional speech writer. Its always interesting to see how people who are guilty of rabble rousing are the first to loudly proclaim " it wasn't me/us you just misunderstood what I was saying" Palin is firmly in the camp of Rush and Glen.

    January 12, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  23. Michael-Huntington Beach, CA

    I wish she would just go away.

    January 12, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  24. Byrd

    Too late, Palin. You and all of your republican cronies own those words of violence and no amount of back-peddling is going to change that fact. Do us all a favor and crawl under a rock somewhere.

    January 12, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  25. Elliott

    No one should be censored in what they say. That being said, I would like to point out this. I was thinking about Congresswoman Giffords parents yesterday as my thoughts and prayers were with their family. I was thinking (as a father myself), what it would be like to see a map with cross-hairs on it and my daughters name listed on that map with the statement "Let's take back the 20 together" and "It's time to take a stand". Personally, I would be horrified as any parent would be. I'm sure Sarah Palin would be. I didn't see anything on the map saying "Let's load our vote" or "Let's aim our vote". Really, that would have been more appropriate.

    Do I think that this map had to do with this tragedy? Absolutely not. Do I think that this map and other things from BOTH sides is in extreme bad taste? Absolutely.

    I defended Sarah Palin when her daughter, Bristol, was pulled into the general election. It was disgusting and had no place as a topic in the general election or any election for that matter. I would really like to know how Mrs Palin and other elected officials would feel if their children were perceived as "targets" on a map. Not a very Christian thing to be doing for predominantly Christian country.

    January 12, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
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