Washington (CNN) - Sarah Palin's team is fighting back against some Democratic claims that the former Alaska governor is encouraging threats of violence against members of Congress who voted in favor of health care reform.
Democratic officials and liberal Web sites are upset that Palin used an image of crosshairs in a Facebook post this week listing 20 vulnerable Democrats who voted for the legislation. She plans to target them this election year with money from her political action committee.
One House member mentioned the Facebook posting during a Wednesday meeting on safety concerns, a Democratic source told CNN's Dana Bash. Mention of the map brought audible groans to the room, the source said.
Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine released a sharply-worded statement Wednesday night accusing several Republican leaders, including Palin, of inciting dangerous behavior.
"Republican leaders are themselves engaging in actions and rhetoric that previously would have been limited to fringe elements of the Republican Party," Kaine said. "Sarah Palin has invoked health care 'death panels' and has now placed gun sights on 20 Members of Congress who supported reform."
An adviser to Palin responded by pointing to several instances in which the former Alaska governor has urged supporters to focus their energies on civil debate and action at the ballot box - not extremist activities.
"We are now the keepers of an honorable tradition of conservative values and good works," Palin said at the national Tea Party Convention in Nashville last month. "We must never forget that it is a sacred trust to carry these ideas forward. It demands civility and it requires decent, constructive, issue-oriented debate."
The adviser also noted that Palin spoke out last year after the murder of abortion provider George Tiller in Kansas, writing on her PAC Web site that "violence is never an answer in advancing the pro-life message."
"Its good that she finally agrees with the Democrats on something," the adviser told CNN. "[House Majority Whip] Jim Clyburn said that silence equals consent, and in this matter she agrees, which is why she has been vocal about condemning violence."
Sen. John McCain, who tapped Palin as his running mate during his 2008 presidential bid, defended Palin's Facebook posting on NBC's "Today Show" Thursday.
"I have seen the rhetoric of targeted districts as long as I've been in politics, please," McCain said. "Any threat of violence is terrible but to say there that there is a targeted district or that we reload or go back into the fight again, please, those are fine, they are used all the time."