Despite her frequent claims that the “lamestream media” hunt for “gotcha” moments at her expense, Sarah Palin has been defended by a variety of mainstream media figures and liberal journalists in the wake of the Arizona shootings.
Her ostensible link to the incident is a map Palin produced during the 2010 election for her “Take Back the 20” campaign. The map marked 20 vulnerable Democrats’ districts with crosshairs — one of which centered on the district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was seriously injured in the shootings Saturday.
Palin’s spokeswoman defended the use of the symbol, and the former Alaska governor was championed by several conservative commentators.
But she’s also been defended by some prominent liberal journalists, as well as the mainstream media she often derides.
Her highest-profile defender, Barbara Walters, told ABC’s “The View” audience this week that “to blame Sarah Palin, as some are doing, I think, is very unfair to her,” and bemoaned the fact that, in the minds of some on the left, she had turned into a target nearly as large as alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner.
The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz echoed Walters’s sentiment. When referring to the controversial campaign map, Kurtz flatly stated: “This isn’t about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it’s about a lone nut job who doesn’t value human life.”
Further, The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait turned the popular conservative slogan “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” into both a liberal- and Palin-friendly maxim: “Guns do kill people,” he wrote, “but gun metaphors don’t.”
New York Magazine’s Dan Amira called Palin’s map “inappropriate,” but, like Chait, stressed the difference between metaphor and reality: “Like all others who have utilized it — such as President Obama, for example — she did so only figuratively. And there is no evidence whatsoever to support the wild speculation that she provided motivation to Loughner.”
The Atlantic’s Garance Frank-Ruta further alluded to the “wild speculation” Amira discussed: “Members of the chattering class have talked about the alleged culpability of Sarah Palin … this despite the fact that there is no evidence Loughner ever read Sarah Palin’s target list.”
And while Slate’s Dave Weigel slammed Palin’s camp for its “ludicrous” spin that the crosshairs on the map were not crosshairs but, actually, “surveyor’s symbols,” he agreed that “there is no reason to believe that Loughner saw Gabrielle Giffords on Sarah Palin’s PAC target list and was inspired to shoot her.”
In one breath, The Christian Science Monitor’s left-leaning Jonathan Zimmerman accused Republicans of “demagogic bashing of government officials,” but in the next, simply said: “Don’t blame Sarah Palin.” Instead, he faulted public schools for failing to engage students in rational political conversation.
Perhaps the clearest example that reaction hasn’t shifted into the typical left/right divide comes from the leftist movie producer John Wellington Ennis, whose defense of Palin ran on The Huffington Post’s front page.
After affirming his liberal credentials by claiming that Palin “outrages more than she inspires,” Ennis argued for the former governor by comparing the situation to the film “Pulp Fiction”: “Blaming Sarah Palin for the outbreaks of violence that happen by nuts who even remotely engage in her arbitrary incitements is, to a degree, like pinning violence on Quentin Tarantino because of his sensationalism of violence.”
Palin has found another unlikely defender in the entertainment industry. The movie critic Richard Roeper dedicated a column to the memory of those murdered, then wrote: “Sarah Palin isn’t responsible for the shootings any more than J.D. Salinger was accountable for the murder of John Lennon.”
And, in an example of how deep and thorough Palin’s association with the shootings has become, another voice rallied to Palin’s defense this week — the voice of the Boston Celtics, also known as play-by-play announcer Sean Grande.
On Monday, Grande tweeted that injured Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett would “NOT return tonight” and that, by the way, it was “not Sarah Palin’s fault.”
The fact is, in the aftermath of the shootings, there have been pockets of predictable liberal outrage trying to link Palin to the event and other pockets of defenders both in the mainstream and liberal press.
With friends like these, Palin might be forced to rethink her common complaint that the mainstream media is instinctively against her, or at least — as Carrie Bradshaw might say — that her supposedly relentless enemies might, instead, actually be “frenemies.”
Heinze, the founder of GOP12.com, is a member of staff at The Hill. Find his column, GOP Presidential Primary, on thehill.com