Sarah Palin Admonishes Journalists, Pundits Not to Manufacture a 'Blood Libel'

PHOTO Palin criticizes journalists and pundits in the wake of the Arizona shooting.PlayABC News
WATCH Palin on 'Blood Libel'

Now is not the time for people to "apportion blame" for the weekend rampage that left six people dead and an Arizona congresswoman clinging to life, Sarah Palin said in a video statement posted on her Facebook page today.

"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," Palin said.

"That is reprehensible."

Defiant in the face of those who charge that her heated rhetoric encourages such violence, Palin noted that criminals are responsible for their own actions, "not those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle."

"Like many, I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance," she said. "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's use of the term "blood libel" -- used historically to falsely accuse Jews of using children's blood to prepare their Passover matzo -- sparked backlash from some liberals but, for the most part, reaction from the leadership on both sides was subdued.

"You know, Sarah Palin just can't seem to get it, on any front. I think that she's an attractive person, she is articulate," Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said on a radio show today. "But I think, intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what's going on here."

Some liberal Jewish groups assailed Palin's rhetoric as insensitive.

"Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today," the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement today. "Sarah Palin's invocation of a 'blood libel' charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction."

Yet others say there's nothing improper in Palin's choice of words.

"The term 'blood libel' has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. ... It's current usage is far broader," said liberal political commentator and Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. "I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim."

The former Alaska governor also drew a reference to the Sept. 11 attacks in taking aim at proposed legislation by Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., that would make it illegal to place crosshairs on a Congress member's district.

"It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values," she said. "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."

The video followed earlier comments in which Palin said, "I hate violence." That was her reaction to the shooting in Tucson of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others that has once again placed the former Alaska governor in the middle of the national political discussion.

The words were part of an e-mail exchange read by conservative commentator Glenn Beck on his syndicated radio show and first reported by Jonathan Martin on Politico.

Here is the full e-mail as read by Beck:

"I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence. Thanks for all you do to send the message of truth and love. And God has the answer. - Sarah"

Palin's comments come amidst the swirl of rhetoric concerning the most discussed "crosshairs" in political memory. On her Facebook page last year, Palin posted a map of 20 Congressional districts being targeted by her political action committee, "SarahPac," in the 2010 midterm election. Gabrielle Giffords' Arizona district was one of them.

At the time Giffords herself responded.

"When people do that, they've gotta realize there are consequences to that action," Giffords said on MSNBC.

Though there are no known ties whatsoever between shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner and Sarah Palin or any part of the Tea Party movement, the "crosshairs" became part of the media coverage of the Tucson shootings from the very beginning.

Rush Limbaugh entered the fray on his radio show today, accusing liberals of "making fools of themselves to take an incident like this and to try to turn it into a political advantage by accusing people that have nothing whatsoever to do with this sordid, unfortunate event, as accomplices to murder. It's silly on its face."

"Don't kid yourself," said Limbaugh. "What this was all about is shutting down any and all political opposition and eventually criminalizing it. Criminalizing policy differences, at least when they differ from the Democrat Party agenda."

Conservative pundits have rushed to Palin's defense. One blogger unearthed graphics produced by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee which featured red target symbols on certain Congressional districts. A graphic produced by the Democratic Leadership Council in 2004 featured bulls' eyes.

Former Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Carney, who himself was in Palin's "crosshairs," told a Pennsylvania newspaper, "I'm not sure if 'blame' is the right word for Ms. Palin, but I think it wasn't helpful, obviously…It would be very useful if she came out and, if not apologize, say that she was wrong in putting that sort of logo on peoples' districts."

Sarah Palin Decries Violence After Gabrielle Giffords Shooting

While Giffords narrowly won reelection, Carney was defeated in November.

Comments like this, and the very coverage of the crosshairs has enraged many conservative commentators.

Writing on the website "Big Journalism," editor-in-chief Dana Loesch said, "The tragedy of Saturday and the importance of identifying and preventing 'lone wolf' attacks has been completely obscured by a shameful and uneducated attack of private citizens by the media and certain public figures who were elected to lead, not divide."

Andrew Breitbart tweeted, "Be honest lefties: Have you had fun politicizing tragedy this weekend? Was it worth it?"

Rebecca Mansour, a spokeperson for SarahPac, told conservative commentator Tammy Bruce, "We never imagined, it never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent." Insisting she was speaking for herself, and not on behalf of Palin, Mansour said, "We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights."

Much of Palin's political rhetoric -- "Don't retreat. Reload" -- not to mention entertainment rhetoric on TLC's "Sarah Palin's Alaska" focuses on hunting and the rights of gun owners.

But for Palin, the e-mails to Glenn Beck might be seen as an attempt to move beyond the discussion of the "crosshairs" themselves, and maintain a safe and sympathetic political distance from the tragedy in Arizona. And by suggesting it is other "politicos" trying to "capitalize" on this, she tries to turn the focus back on her critics.

Glenn Beck even went as far to suggest that Palin herself could now become a target of violence.

"Please look into protection for your family," Beck told her in an e-mail. "An attempt on you could bring the republic down."

ABC News' Huma Khan contributed to this report.