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."

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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. EW

    what is clear, since it was pointed out that the term first appeared in the WSJ in an Op-Ed by Glenn Reynolds, is that Palin still does not offer any new, original or independent thinking to ANY dialogue in which she inserts herself. I admit to never having heard the phrase - and I have spent my adult years in close relationships with Jewish friends, co-workers, etc - so, I am darn sure Palin had never heard it either...until she read another conservative pundit's article.

    CNN, just eliminate Palin from your coverage; you alone continue to keep this idiot in the limelight.

    January 12, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. hello

    I like you but please be quite....

    January 12, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. donkey party

    Don't criticize her, criticize her ghost-writer.

    January 12, 2011 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. Greenspam

    Palin Palin Palin, always foot in mouth. What's next? She will offer the final solution on this problem on rhetoric?

    January 12, 2011 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. McMurdo

    Poor poor pathetic Palin. She looks so Presidential with her little flag pin and a larger one draped in the background. Too bad her words are self serving. self centered and self righteous, as in hypocrite, and not Presidential at all.

    January 12, 2011 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Iconoclast

    I agree that people have been irresponsible in linking Sarah Palin to the Arizona nut case tragedy, but I do understand how it comes about and if anybody has a history with "irresponsible" comments it is one Ms. Sarah Palin. Sorry, I have no sympathy for someone as loose with words and thoughts as Sarah. Maybe now she'll start to understand that the distinction between fact and fiction is an important one and one that can haunt people for a very long time. Just kidding, we all know she will continue on as always and the media will just eat it up.

    January 12, 2011 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. Tim

    You don't have the decency to say you are wrong so you pick on the phrase she used to deflect blame? You are blood libel, the term doesn't belong to anyone. If you're offended by the term, you need to grow thicker skin.

    January 12, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Kristin J.

    This criticism is extremely mild. They almost seem sympathetic towards her. They find her useful because she, like so many other neo cons, can be counted on to be insanely devoted to Israel at all costs. Amusing that people are so clueless that they write off organizations like the ADL as merely leftist organizations. They are jewish organizations that promote anything and everything good for jews. And good for jews=anti traditional white christian policies in western nations while backing their own ethocentric hard core nationalist jewish state. If my comments seem anti semitic to you so be it. Then the truth is anti semitic.

    January 12, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. Politicians and political enthusiasts need to calm down.

    What a bimbo. Does not think before she speaks, not that it matters. She has ill regard toward those whose histories are deeply embedded in the social commentary we use today. As part of being a political figure, one should be a role model toward those big and small. We cannot always tell the truth; lies are not regularly planned and executed. Lies are the hindering of one's attempts at achieving what he/she may have promised to accomplish sometime in the past. All politicians "lie", and that is simply politics. We must accept this. However this blatant disregard toward such a sensitive topic as the one above should not go unnoticed.

    January 12, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  10. Michael Allen

    Tragedy happens...and in other news astronomers have found a mysterious cloud that might possibly indicate the remnants of a dead quasar, kind of reminds me of the galaxy of sh-t orbiting around this tragic event her on Earth–back to you, Bob!

    January 12, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  11. Molly Weasley

    It's always all about HER, isn't it? Half-term Gov. $arah Palin isn't the "victim" here. The people who died and the people who are still recovering from their injuries are the victims.

    To make this even more offensive, Gabby Giffords is Jewish. Hey, Sarah, why don't you use what little brains you have and realize the consequences of your words?

    She could have acted like a real leader and added her voice to those calling for more civil discourse. But the right wing just can't seem to take responsibility for anything, can they?

    Another blog gave the perfect line: $arah Palin has finally jumped the moose.

    January 12, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. marty

    Two women in the news, Gabrielle Giffords and Sarah Palin, and what a difference in comparison. Actually, there is no comparison, Gabby is not a quitter.

    January 12, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. Soul

    This lady doesn't get it!!! It's unfortunate though!

    January 12, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. des

    She should have disowned and regretted her gunsights ad, her statements about getting political opponents in her sights, her NRA and hunter personna, ..... but she didn't. It's who she is. She and others like her "protest too much" .... the shoe does fit ... and she should wear it.
    She hasn't the smarts to excercise the good judgement required in high political office. She couldn't do it as Governor in Alaska.
    She didn't do it when surping the candidacy of Alaska's Republican Senator.

    January 12, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. karma

    Keep in mind that palin does not have the intelligence to write the garbage she is spewing. I wonder how John McCain feels about all this, since he pulled her out of Alaska to run as his Vice Presidential candidate? He must be crawling in some hole now if he has any shame at all. This might end when palin goes back to A laska and stays there out of the public eye once and for all. She has made plenty of money off the suckers who listen to her babbling away. What a disgrace to the USA.

    January 12, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  16. she is so out of touch

    She doesnt understand anything about anything. She tries to deflect and place blame elsewhere. Its really sad she doesnt get the bigger picture of Saturday's tragedy. and thats why she will never be President.

    January 12, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. janetlaw

    Do you expect anything less from the queen of foot-in-mouth disease?

    January 12, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  18. Publius13

    The JDL is, of course, correct. But we can hardly hold Ms. Palin accountable for knowledge of common cultural terms. She is not sufficiently grounded in history, political science, sociology, religion, or common knowledge to be held to the standards of an ordinary citizen, much less that of an aspiring national political figure. Both the nation and Ms. Palin would benefit greatly if she would refrain from speaking on matters of which she knows little or nothing. But then, she wouldn't be able to speak at all, would she?

    January 12, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. sharon

    She's making anti Semitic remarks and should be called on it. Erick Erickson also made anti-Semitic remarks on Red State yesterday. Is he still working for CNN? Is CNN condoning what he said?

    January 12, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  20. RH of WI

    Sarah is the one who put people in the "crosshairs". Her term!

    January 12, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  21. needNewGov

    Why would anyone think that SPalin would use terminology that didn't dig or hurt someone. The woman just opens her mouth and what little brain she has just spills out. It's like watching/listening to a 2nd grader trying to explain quantum physics.

    January 12, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. Nurse Lisa

    If she wants no blame she has to start behaving blamelessly. How can she defend her map with Dems in rifle crosshairs? Just a joke...

    January 12, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. annie s

    This criticism assumes three things – that Ms. Palin actually had a hand in crafting her video speech, that she understands the meaning of "blood libel" and that she may actually care if her words hurt someone. Ms. Palin has reacted in only one way to the shootings in Tucson and to the aftermath – to portray herself, as she always does, as a victim. And while we agree that Ms. Palin should not have been blamed for the Tucson tragedy, we still have heard her do nothing but defend her use of violent rhetoric.

    January 12, 2011 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. UrAverageJoe

    She is a divider, certainly not a uniter, and most certainly not a Christian woman. This country can ill-afford someone who will do or say anything to make a buck, the country and it's civil discourse be damned!

    January 12, 2011 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  25. Sarah - Forever the Victim

    Apparently her statement was too long to fit on her hand, as the evil telepromter was clearly reflected in her glasses. "Nothing more than a charismatic guy reading from a teleprompter", Isn't that how it goes Sarah?

    January 12, 2011 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
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