Though she insisted she's all for civility, Sarah Palin said Monday that she and other conservatives will not allow debate to be "stifled" by last week's tragedy in Arizona.
In her first interview since the shooting that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., gravely wounded and the former GOP vice presidential candidate on the defensive, Palin told her Fox News colleague Sean Hannity that she will not be cowed by "lame-stream media" critics who have suggested that macho campaign rhetoric from the right may have helped set the stage for the violence.
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"I'm not going to sit down and shut up," Palin said during an interview in which she quoted Scriptures and Martin Luther King and commiserated with Hannity about the criticisms that both had endured in the days after the shooting. "I did not like being called a merchant of hate by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., " Hannity interjected.
Palin said she wants to continue to use her notoriety to "empower" others, and was studiously noncommittal when it came to a 2012 bid for the White House
"I am going to continue down that path, and if that leads to being a candidate for higher office, then I will announce that at the appropriate time," she told Hannity
Palin acknowledged that a now infamous map her political action committee published used cross-hairs to target Giffords and 19 other Democratic House members for ouster. That's a change from last week when an aide argued that the icons were surveyors' marks. But Palin argued that she was merely following standard political metaphors. "For many, many years, maps in political races have been used to target certain districts," she continued. "The graphic we used was crosshairs targeting the different districts. That's not original; Democrats have been using it for years," Palin said.
Palin, who was interviewed from her home in Wasilla, defended her use of the controversial term "blood libel," which upset some Jewish leaders because of its history as an anti-Semitic slur, as an innocent use of a term in wide circulation.
"You can spin up anything out of anybody's release," she said. "'Blood libel' obviously means 'being falsely accused of having blood on your hands,' which in this case is exactly what's going on."
She expressed concern that Democrats would use "diversions" to keep the political fights from being joined on issues such as health care and economic policy. Dissent and debate are "what makes America exceptional," Palin said, "And we won't allow that to be stifled by the tragic events that happened in Arizona."
Addressing the controversial video she posted the morning before the Arizona victims' memorial service, Palin said: "My defense wasn't self-defense; it was defending those who were falsely accused." She included in that group "talk show hosts and talk show listeners."
On Twitter, the instant analysis was mixed. Among the more supportive tweets: "SARAH PALIN'S INTERVIEW WAS AWESOME!!! REAL..AUTHENTIC...HONEST...TRUE LEADER...#45TH PRESIDENT 4 MY FUTURE!!!;" "Palin was amazing on Hannity. She is tough, sharp and courageous. Awesome job!!" Tony Lee, a writer on the conservative website HumanEvents.com, posted the highly re-tweeted: "Anyone who thinks Palin cannot win Presidency is wrong. This woman can."
But opposing tweets were quick to point out that Palin was being accommodated on her own network (she is a Fox News contributor) by an obviously friendly host.