Palin criticized for using 'blood libel'
January 12th, 2011
01:47 PM ET
12 years ago

Palin criticized for using 'blood libel'

(CNN) – The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that combats anti-Semitism, says Sarah Palin should have used a different phrase than "blood libel" to characterize attempts to link her discourse to the Arizona shootings, the latest in a series of criticisms leveled at the former Alaska governor Wednesday over her use of the controversial term.

"We wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase "blood-libel" in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others," said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a statement. "While the term 'blood-libel' has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history."

Read more from the CNN belief blog

In her video statement posted on Facebook earlier Wednesday, Palin lashed out at Democrats and other commentators who have charged Palin and others on the right with creating an atmosphere that encourages events like that which occurred in Tucson.

"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 in her eight-minute video.

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.

Palin's use of the term has opened up the former vice presidential candidate to a new round of criticism, mostly from Democrats who say Palin and her aides did not understand the negative connotations the word conjures. The usage has also touched off a fierce debate on Twitter, where "blood libel" has become a trending topic all morning.

"She seems not to understand what is going on here," House Minority Whip James Clyburn told radio host Bill Press earlier Wednesday.

"The use of this particular term in this context isn't ideal," said Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, a conservative publication. "Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood – usually from children – in their rituals. I agree entirely with Glenn's, and now Palin's, larger point. But I'm not sure either of them intended to redefine the phrase, or that they should have."

Foxman, in the ADL statement, also supports Palin's larger point – that commentators have wrongly linked her and other's rhetoric to the attacks.

"It was inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder," he said. "Palin has every right to defend herself against these kinds of attacks, and we agree with her that the best tradition in America is one of finding common ground despite our differences."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization also "denounced" Palin's use of the term Wednesday.

"It is simply inappropriate to compare current American politics with (a) term that was used by Christians to persecute Jews," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center. "She has every right to criticize journalists without going over the top."

A Palin adviser had no further comment on the former vice presidential candidate's Facebook post.

-  CNN's Jessica Yellin and Alexander Mooney  contributed to this report.

Related: Palin says efforts to blame 'reprehensible'

Filed under: Sarah Palin
soundoff (291 Responses)
  1. Jim in Florida

    For goodness sakes, Palin is attacked viciously by the left and all but accused of "blood libel" in the Arizona shootings, she defends herself and now the ADL is getting terminology picky. The ADL doesn't own the rights to blood libel, this is ridiculous.

    All the time as the body of evidence grows that this nut had a fascination for his target, didn't watch TV, listen to talk radio, etc. etc. Almost as if the shooter was apolitical.

    Someone owes Palin an apology but she won't get one. The political left wants to use this shooting to censor their political opponents. That is going to backfire in a big way.

    January 12, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. David c.

    I still don't get this. Palin uses firearms rhetoric all the time. Then, when something like this Tucson event occurs and people point out that her rhetoric isn't just mean but related to firearms, she is bewildered? If it was me, I'd be really unhappy that my words came back to bite me- just like this blood libel phrase. In this case, Palin used another person's "use of phrase" without even knowing what she was talking about. No wonder she is an entertainer and not a politician.

    January 12, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. jorge washinsen

    Now that is a surprise.

    January 12, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. jake

    She truly is an idiot.

    January 12, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. Peter Farago

    So I guess she said "Let's survey these twenty liberals" and then her staff said "Cool, we can put together an awesome graphic that shows their districts with survey marks over them!"

    January 12, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  6. Patriot

    Don't think for a moment that the use of this term was not deliberate. Palin and her allies are focused on dividing America and pitting us against each other by emphasizing our differences rather than our commonalities. Everything they say is deliberate; "2nd Amendment remedies", "crosshairs", "Don't retreat, reload"...all designed for the effect we saw on Saturday.

    January 12, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. jorge washinsen

    It brightens the day when you find you are not talking to a machine.

    January 12, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  8. chris

    1. Unfortunately, Sarah will be forever linked to this tragedy because of the concern expressed by Gabrielle Giffords in her video from March 2010. “Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that, they've gotta realize there are consequences to that action." – Gabrielle Giffords, March 2010. 2. Nothing Sarah and her friends say or do is going to change that. Sarah , As you sow so shall you reap.

    January 12, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. granny11

    It's time to quit picking on Sarah Palin. Her statement was excellent – sensitive, and straight to the point. The media is fanning the flames of rhetoric; after all, if this administration hadn't run roughshod over common sense Americans who uphold Constitutional freedoms, there would be no rhetoric of vitriolic proportions as the sheriff of Tucson remarked. No, the reason for any rhetoric at all is the breakneck speed at which the Obama administration has foisted a twisted agenda down our throats, and we are expected to take it sitting down. The media should have gone after those in Congress who caused the "rhetoric" in the first place. Although there is nothing wrong with good rhetoric, civilized and educated citizens have always engaged in constructive criticism, as Sarah Palin indicated. The media is certain to blame.

    January 12, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. Kitten526

    As usual Palin doesn't accept any responsibility and blames others. It was when she took stage after McCain chose her for a running mate that the hate was increased 100% in this country. You can't put targets on a map with the name of someone and use expressions like reload and all of the other hate that spews from her mouth and not expect people to pick up on it. Of course the shooter heard this stuff, with her big mouth they can hear it in China! When you are mentally ill you pick up on things like that. If she didn't know she was at least partly responsible why did she immediately scrub her website? She is a money whore and will say and do anything to stay in the limelight and make money. She doesn't care about who is hurt along the way, just how she will benefit.

    January 12, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Joe

    It is ironic that while the right declaims any connection between their words and actions of others, they are so quick to assume a connection between the words of "leftist professors" and actions (or political leanings) of college students, Obama talking to students is “indoctrination”, muslim cleric is inciting for whatever he says,

    But Palin showing a list of democrats as targets with crosshairs over their districts, naaaah, that’s nothing! Just Freedom of speech!

    January 12, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. trex

    Awh, come on Sarah. EVERYBODY knows exactly what you said and how you meant it. "Death panels",......"don't retreat, RELOAD',...... "Targeting Congresspersons with cross hairs",...... we know EXACTLY what you said and what you meant. Now that a weak mind has put your extreme rhetoric in motion, you don't want to admit what you intended.

    January 12, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  13. Bob Dog

    Sarah Palin = awkward, inappropriate, cheap, self-serving and ugly oaf.

    Go away Sarah. You embarrass everything with which you are associated. Please just go away.

    January 12, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  14. danhannen252

    I tend to be a Palin supporter but I must confess that I find all of this quite distressing. In a time like this I'd like to see her a little less worried about her image and a little more focused on helping our nation heal.

    It would have been nice to hear something positive from her about where we need to go as a nation.

    January 12, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. bravado in boston

    Have you noticed that, more and more, Ms. Palin is looking like Anna? Red Sky is coming!

    January 12, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  16. NC

    It just never ends, does it. I think Palin should just be quiet. She just constantly has to be the center of attention and keeps putting her foot in her mouth. With all the money she has she needs a good PR Person. I have nothing against Palin or anyone one else but enough is enough.

    January 12, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. annette

    keep talking sarah. may as well quit your run for presidency. you have put your foot in your mouth too many times and now you cannot repair the damage. too late to take it back.

    January 12, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  18. Tim

    She's 100% correct to use the term. You publicly call her out and say she is responsbile for the shooting in Arizona, and you expect her to sit back and take it on the chin? You made libelous statements about her character, and she responed and called you out on it. You shouldn't have connected her to the shooting when it happened, and now that it is crystal clear that the dope who did the shooting had zero political motives, did not watch cabel news, and did not listen to talk radio, you have a double duty to publicly, loudly, and often, say you were wrong to connect her at the beginning and now it is clear that you judged her guilty based on your political biases. She's right, you are blood libel and part of the problem.

    January 12, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. Simon

    Maybe if Palin picks up a book once and a while and expands her vocabulary, then she may not look like such an idiot. But hey, she couldn't name one newspaper that she "reads" when asked during her VP run.

    January 12, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. Tired of the nonsense

    Look, I'm not one to ever praise or support Palin because I firmly believe she's a pickled-brained moron with no common sense, but I do have to say this about her comment - she's too stupid to know what it meant or the history behind it.

    January 12, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. Suz

    A politician not choosing their words wisely?? I, for one, am shocked.

    January 12, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  22. Doug in NYC

    Shaking my head and walking away is disgust, you. Ron White is correct, you can't fix stupid. Palin just does not get it.

    January 12, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Jack

    Palin says ,quoting Reagan, that society is not responsible for an individual's actions. Society does set the tone and may encourage action. If a young gay man grows up in a town (society) where he is bullied and made fun of and made to feel not accepted, he could be murdered or commit suicide. Society should be accountable for turning a blind eye to bullying or vitriolic language and not encouraging inclusiveness. If a society is compassionate, accepting, and supportive, that same youth may not as easily be the victim of a hate crime or consider suicide. So, we do have a responsibility. We are not responsible for every heinous act, of course, but we need to create a responsible society. Hateful, vitriolic, mean-spirited rhetoric by leaders of our society do not help create a responsible society. We cannot stop all heinous acts but we need to try to create a society in which these kinds of things don't become the norm.

    January 12, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. Northdakotax

    Good Grief... this just goes on and on. We can't use this phrase now?????

    January 12, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  25. jimboe

    anti-semite who incites murderers.

    January 12, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12