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."