In the stunned aftermath of the Tucson massacre, Sarah Palin has found herself in the crosshairs of the ensuing political debate with opponents suggesting she may have fueled the gunman's rage and her supporters saying it is "grotesque" to blame her and to politicize the tragedy.
Crosshairs is a political phrase that emerged from Palin's political action committee SarahPac that targeted congressional districts for the Tea Party campaign in the last election, including the district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Although Palin later denied she meant the graphic over the districts to look like a gun sight, it is part of the hunting lexicon that critics say she prefers.
Comedian Frank Conniff tweeted: "Hey, Sarah Palin, hows that hatey, killy, reloady, crosshairsy thing working out for ya?"
Facebook executive Randi Zuckerberg said many people on the social networking site are asking whether Sarah Palin is to blame.
According to Zuckerberg that is the #1 question on the social network behemoth following the Tucson shooting.
Like so much with Palin, the roots are on Facebook. On her Facebook page last year when she posted the a map of 20 congressional districts targeted by SarahPac, the headline of the map: "It's time to take a stand."
At the time Giffords reacted to the map in an interview on a cable news program.
"When people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action," Giffords said.
No connection has been made between this graphic and the Arizona shooting, but it has put the Palin team somewhat on the defensive. Rebecca Mansour, a spokesperson 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 added, "We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights."
However, following the initial controversy over the "crosshairs" last year, Palin issued her now oft repeated rallying cry, "Don't retreat. RELOAD."
Politico's Jonathan Martin was the first to point out that Palin herself, in a tweet last November following the election, referred to the crosshairs as a "bull's eye."
Sarah Palin in Crosshairs of Tucson Massacre DebateAnyone who has seen "Sarah Palin's Alaska" on the TLC channel and seen that Palin has a deep connection and love for hunting. She repeated the "reload" phrase on that show. Language surrounding gun-use and hunting is something she uses often, and often with no political overtones.
And the only reaction to the Arizona shooting from Palin came on her Facebook page.
"My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice," the statement said.
This statement received more than 25,000 comments from Palin supporters on her page. Many criticized any links being made in the media between the Arizona shooting and Palin, particularly since some accounts from Arizona note that accused gunman Jared Loughner was involved at some point with "liberal" politics and his MySpace profile listed The Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books.
An acquaintance of Loughner's, Caitie Parker, who said she was in school and in a band with him, described him on Twitter as "more libertarian & definitely socially liberal."
Conservative activists are lashing out against what they consider unfair treatment of Palin in this tragedy. On twitter, SarahPac spokesperson Mansour wrote, "Politicizing this is repulsive."
Conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, wrote, "Of those who're now using this tragedy 4 political purposes, what's your proof of this lunatic's motivation? Isn't that majorly relevant?"
And another tweeted, "Left blamed Palin b4 they knew 1st thing about shooter; unable to admit malice, they double down, co-ordinate narrative. Grotesque."
Another statement being retweeted by conservatives is this one, noting that even President Obama has used the language of armed conflict in politics. "The instigator for AZ massacre? Obama: 'If They Bring a Knife to the Fight, We Bring a Gun," and linking to comments that then-Senator Obama made during Democratic primaries.
One thing is clear, Palin, who has been at the center of so much of the political discourse and discussion the last two years, is right back in the center, you might even say the crosshairs, whether she wants to be there or not.