Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) on Wednesday accused the media of "blood libel" by looking to assign blame for the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Palin offered a pointed defense of herself and other political leaders who sometimes used heated rhetoric on the 2010 campaign trail — rhetoric some Democrats say created an environment that fueled the assassination attempt against Giffords.
Palin lashed out at the media, one of her traditional targets, saying they fueled the notion that rhetoric played a role in the Arizona attack.
"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," she wrote. "That is reprehensible."
Palin has come under particular scrutiny for her role in campaigning against Giffords. The Arizona congresswoman was one of 20 targeted for defeat by Palin; SarahPac released a map last fall featuring crosshairs over the districts. Palin introduced the map on Twitter by telling conservatives: "Don't retreat, instead — RELOAD!"
The potential 2012 presidential candidate alluded to that map in her statement on Wednesday, saying that gun imagery wasn't used just by the right.
"Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own," she wrote. "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."
For Palin, the Arizona shooting presents a delicate situation: She'll have to reconcile her rhetoric, which had faced criticism before last weekend's attack, with the new political reality following the attempted assassination of Giffords.
The third-ranking House Democrat, Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), responded on Wednesday to Palin, saying: "You know, Sarah Palin just can't seem to get it, on any front. I think she's an attractive person, she is articulate. But I think intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what's going on here."
The motive of the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is not known; it is suggested he suffers from some form of mental illness.