Sarah Palin is not to blame for the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). As I wrote on Monday, she cannot be held accountable for the actions of an obviously deranged individual, even if—and there is so far no evidence that this is the case—her inflammatory rhetoric influenced him in some way. But the attack did highlight the ways in which Palin’s rhetoric sometimes crosses the line. And if some of the criticism of Palin was unfair, she deserves to be widely condemned for her response.
In a video answer to her critics this morning, Palin said they had manufactured “a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.” Palin is completely justified in denying any responsibility for the attack. And it’s understandable that she would be worried that about the political damage she’s taking. But it would have been nice to at least acknowledge that using hunting metaphors to call on her supporters to target her political opponents was inappropriate, especially since Giffords worried at the time that there could be “consequences” to Palin’s use of violent imagery. And, as Dave Weigel says, it probably would have been smartest for Palin to have simply kept silent on the issue.
Instead, with 6 people dead and a Congresswoman still in intensive care, Palin chose to portray herself as the victim. She accused her critics of inciting her violence against her by criticizing her—even as she denied that when she criticizes other people it could inspire violence—and suggested that her critics aren’t sincere in condemning the attack on Giffords. Then she called the suggestion that she is somehow to blame for the attack on Giffords “a blood libel.” The term originally refers to the old belief that Jews used the blood of Christian children in their rituals, which was used for centuries to justify the persecution and murder of the Jewish people. Saying she is the victim of a blood libel is in effect to equate herself with the victims of genocide—which is why her comments prompted a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League.
There’s no question that some of the criticism of Palin has been unfair. But this it not the time for her to complain how unfairly she is being persecuted. As the National Rifle Association has been telling reporters, “Anything other than prayers for the victims and their families at this time would be inappropriate.”