Arizona shooting: Palin denounces 'blood libel'

Palin: "Our debates are full of passion but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box"

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has attacked as a "blood libel" suggestions that political rhetoric contributed to Saturday's fatal shootings in Arizona.

Ms Palin, a possible 2012 presidential runner, hit out at commentators' "irresponsible statements" laying "blame for this terrible event".

Her remarks came as new details emerged about the attack, in which six were killed and morethan a dozen wounded.

Jared Loughner, 22, has been jailed pending trial for the attack.

"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 said in the video released on her Facebook page. "That is reprehensible."

The video statement from the 2008 vice-presidential candidate came hours before President Barack Obama is set to fly to Arizona to attend a service honouring victims of the shooting.

Some commentators have suggested increasingly vitriolic political rhetoric in the US may have contributed in some way to the attack, with some specifically criticising Ms Palin for using an online graphic containing crosshair symbols that marked targeted Democratic districts in the recent US mid term elections.

Among the districts targeted was that of Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was gravely injured in Saturday's attack at a constituency outreach meeting in a Tucson shopping centre.

Mark Kelly, holding his wife Gabrielle Giffords's hand in the hospital Ms Giffords' husband Mark Kelly has been at his wife's bedside as she fights to recover

In her statement on Wednesday, Ms Palin rejected any suggestion that the political climate had contributed to the act.

"Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own," Ms Palin said.

"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."

Pro-Israel lobby group J Street said in a statement that it hoped Ms Palin would retract her comment and choose a "less inflammatory choice of words".

ANALYSIS

With this video, Sarah Palin wades into the debate over the wider issues surrounding the Arizona shooting. And there's no hesitation.

To be fair to her, no other politician in America has had his or her name singled out for such comment and criticism. She clearly feels an urgent need to defend herself.

But there's still a danger to this presidential hopeful in sounding too angry, or in choosing the wrong words.

It's not clear if she or her advisors understand why "blood libel" will be regarded as offensive by many American Jews. The term is overwhelmingly associated with a false accusation of despicable crimes committed by Jews against Christian children.

But in hitting back against "journalists and pundits", she's entering the debate at a lower level than some might regard as wise, showing a willingness to scrap and fight in defence of her reputation and values.

Her robust defence will doubtless resonate well with her supporters among conservative Tea Party activists, who feel they are being unfairly singled out for helping to create America's toxic political environment.

The reaction to the tragedy in Tucson from some parts of what Ms Palin describes as the "lamestream media" feels, to her supporters, like an attempt to muzzle their heroine.

But there could be a price to pay for choosing to enter the fray in such an unambiguous way, at a time when most of the country's politicians have chosen to stand above it.

It leaves Ms Palin firmly in her bunker, at a time when her political ambitions might dictate that she start to reach out to America's middle ground.

What does 'blood libel' mean?

"The term 'blood libel' brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds," the group said.

'Spirit unbroken'

Six were killed in the attack, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and more than a dozen wounded. Ms Giffords was shot in the head and remains in critical condition, though doctors have said she is able to breathe on her own and appears slowly to be recovering.

Mr Loughner has been charged with several federal crimes over the shooting, and could face the death penalty. In an initial court appearance on Monday he was remanded in custody pending trial.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday took up a resolution honouring Ms Giffords and other victims of the attack, with House Speaker John Boehner fighting back tears as he spoke about his ailing colleague.

"Our hearts are broken but our spirit is not," the Ohio Republican said.

The resolution declares the House "stands firm in its belief in a democracy in which all can participate and in which intimidation and threats of violence cannot silence the voices of any American."

The House had postponed a vote on a divisive effort to repeal President Barack Obama's healthcare plan in order to take up the resolution.

Also on Wednesday, the House sergeant-at-arms held a security briefing for lawmakers, advising them to co-ordinate public events in their constituencies with local police.

While some US legislators have called for stricter gun control in the wake of Saturday's shooting, Rep Trent Franks said: "I wish there was one more gun that day in the hands of a responsible person."

Meanwhile, fresh details have emerged of the hours leading up to the fatal attack. Among those, Arizona police have said an officer stopped Mr Loughner for speeding, but let him go with a verbal warning.

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