Sarah Palin: 'Journalists and Pundits Should Not Manufacture a Blood Libel'

Media members that have been shamelessly blaming Sarah Palin for helping to incite Jared Lee Loughner's shooting rampage in Tucson on Saturday have been in the past couple of days ridiculing her silence since the event.

On Wednesday, just hours before the President is set to speak on this subject, the former Alaska governor posted her thoughtful response to the tragedy - as well as the press's abhorrent behavior since - at her Facebook page (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. 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.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election. [...]

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. 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. That is reprehensible.

For those unfamiliar with the phrase, blood libel was originally an anti-Semitic smear first witnessed in the 1700s:

The blood libel is a false accusation that Jews sacrifice Christian children either to use the blood for various "medicinal" purposes or to prepare Passover Matzoth (unleavened bread) or for vengeance and mock crucifixions. It is one of the central fables of Anti-Semitism of the older (middle ages) type. The blood libel is a phenomenon of medieval and modern Christian anti-Semitism, but spread to the Middle East as early as 1775, when there was a blood libel in Hebron. A second blood libel occurred in Damascus in 1840 and one occurred in Cyprus in the same year. As the blood libel was the subject of folk ballads and literature, it was not simply a religious superstition in Europe, but a staple of popular culture, like most anti-Semitic prejudices.

Blood libels in the both the West and the East were generally occasions for large-scale persecution and judicial murders of Jews, as well as the basis for expulsions and pogroms. There have been about 150 cases of blood libel that were actually tried by Catholic authorities, and many other rumored cases that never came to trial.

To my knowledge, the first person to associate this term with the media and the Left's accusations that Giffords' shooting was caused by conservative rhetoric was Glenn Reynolds in his fabulous column at the Wall Street Journal Monday titled "The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel":

So as the usual talking heads begin their "have you no decency?" routine aimed at talk radio and Republican politicians, perhaps we should turn the question around. Where is the decency in blood libel?

To paraphrase Justice Cardozo ("proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do"), there is no such thing as responsibility in the air. Those who try to connect Sarah Palin and other political figures with whom they disagree to the shootings in Arizona use attacks on "rhetoric" and a "climate of hate" to obscure their own dishonesty in trying to imply responsibility where none exists. But the dishonesty remains.

To be clear, if you're using this event to criticize the "rhetoric" of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you're either: (a) asserting a connection between the "rhetoric" and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you're not, in which case you're just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?

I understand the desperation that Democrats must feel after taking a historic beating in the midterm elections and seeing the popularity of ObamaCare plummet while voters flee the party in droves. But those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America's political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.

Where is the decency in that?

Palin's views Wednesday amplified this theme:

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

Indeed. As NewsBusters reported Tuesday, and as media members have conveniently ignored as they dishonestly used Palin's "Don't retreat - RELOAD" tweet to blame her for Saturday's killings, the former Alaska governor and her former running mate fully explained her remark last March:

SARAH PALIN: Now, when I talk about "It’s not a time to retreat, it’s a time to reload," what I’m talking about – now media, try to get this right, okay? That’s not inciting violence. What’s that, that is doing is trying to inspire people to get involved in their local elections and these upcoming federal elections. It’s telling people that their arms are their votes. It’s not inciting violence. It’s telling people, “Don’t ever let anybody tell you to sit down and shut up Americans. You stand up and you stand tall.”

Pretty good explanation, right?

So was the one John McCain gave to NBC's Ann Curry two days earlier:

ANN CURRY: You're also working, Senator, for re-election. And I understand that Sarah Palin will be joining you in Arizona as you campaign tomorrow. And as we just saw from Kelly O'Donnell's report, she has used some pretty incendiary language. She Tweeted in response to the health care vote, "Commonsense, conservative and lovers of America don't retreat, instead reload." And on her Facebook page she also posted a map highlighting weak Democratic districts that conservatives should target with a crosshair symbol. Considering these threats, these concerns, that we've been hearing about regarding violence, do you think, do you now recommend that your party use less incendiary language and will you say that to her tomorrow?

JOHN MCCAIN: Ann, I have seen the rhetoric of targeted districts as long as I've been in politics. Please. This is - any threat of violence is terrible. But to say that there is a targeted district or that we reload or go back in to the fight again, please. That's just language.

CURRY: Those are not my words, those are her words!

MCCAIN: Oh those, those are fine. We, they're used all the time. Those words have been used throughout my political career.

CURRY: But should they be perhaps used less.

MCCAIN: There are targeted districts.

CURRY: Sorry for interrupting Senator.

MCCAIN: There are targeted districts and there are areas that we call battleground states. And so, please. That, that rhetoric and kind of language is just part of the political lexicon. It is in no place for threats or violence or anything else. But to say someone is in a battle ground state, is not originated today.

CURRY: Senator, with all due respect and, and I, I heard what you had to say.

MCCAIN: With all due respect, that's, that's, with all due respect that's simply...

CURRY: No let me just simply, let me just inject this one question sir.

MCCAIN: Sure.

CURRY: The question is, given even if, even if what you're saying is, is accepted by everyone that this is a language of campaigning, this is the language of politics. Given, however, the sensitivity regarding this particular bill, should this still be the language of this day, given how much we are hearing about hundreds of calls regarding threats, about vandalism, about the gas line of a congressman's brother's home being cut. Sir, this is, these are very dangerous times. Is this the language that we should be hearing today?

MCCAIN: The language that we should be using today is the language that we are using. We condemn violence. We, we condemn threats of violence. If anyone does that, and violates the law, they will be persecuted to the full extent of the law and that there is no place for it. But to somehow say that someone's in a battleground state is somehow offensive simply, I'm sorry.

CURRY: Well I think it's the "reload" and the, and the crosshairs, I think, that's caused a lot of people to be concerned, Senator.

MCCAIN: Well maybe it has and we condemn any violence, any threats of violence. But I've heard all of that language throughout my political career. But we have to do everything we can to make sure the American people know that there's no place for that in America but what has just been done, against the overwhelming opposition of the American people, sleazy deals done in an unprecedented fashion, of course has people angry. That anger should be, should be channeled into voter registration and go continue the, the struggle that we're in to regain America and stop mortgaging our children's futures.

Quite right, and on Wednesday, Palin expounded on this:

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

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

Now that Palin has spoken, it's going to be very interesting to see how media respond to it. Frankly, it seems no matter what she says, they're going to attack her.

Some are already glomming on to her use of the phrase blood libel. Ben Smith at Politico noted (h/t Ed Morrissey):

I was curious how "blood libel" -- historically the specific term for the anti-semitic slur and incitement that Jews prepared ritual food with the blood of Christian children -- has made its way into the American political debate, and I speculated that it was an echo of Israel's use of the term defending itself against charges of having killed Palestinian civilians.

Smith e-mailed Reynolds about this getting back the following:

I got email saying that on Morning Joe somebody was complaining about her use of that term this morning. I am of course aware -- and I imagine the very pro-Israel Palin is, too -- of *The* Blood Libel from medieval times, but one sees false associations with murder called *a* blood libel without reference to that. I seem to recall Tony Blankley calling the Haditha allegations (by John Murtha?) a blood libel against American troops, for example.

As Smith noted, Reynolds was right about Blankley's reference to libel.

Will these two words be all media fixate on in the coming days completely ignoring the other 1139?

With the way they've cherry-picked and distorted virtually everything that has come from this woman's mouth or keyboard since the moment she burst onto the scene in August 2008, it wouldn't be at all surprising.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.