Sarah Palin Accuses Press of 'Blood Libel'

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Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

Anyone still wondering whether political debate in American would change in the wake of the shooting of 20 in Tucson that left six dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords grievously injured got their answer this morning as Sarah Palin delivered a resounding no.

The former GOP vice presidential nominee, who has been little heard from since making a brief Facebook statement on Saturday and later passing a note to Glenn Beck to read on air, released a seven-and-a-half minute video Wednesday morning defiantly defending the right to free speech and seeking to shift debate over responsibility for the shooting from the consequences of heated political rhetoric to the actions of the shooter, alone.

"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," Palin said.

"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," she continued.

"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," she said.

The term "blood libel" has been used by a number of conservative pundits -- such as Glenn Reynolds, writing in the Wall Street Journal Monday -- to reject liberal criticism as part of the fierce debate that has raged these past few days over what constitutes responsible political speech. But it is nonetheless a term with a specific historic meaning that sits uncomfortably in Palin's video and is bound to open the former Alaska governor to a fresh round of criticism, distracting from the rest of her message in the video. The blood libel is an anti-Semitic myth dating to the middle ages that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies; it served as the basis for centuries of genocidal persecution.

"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," Palin says in her statement. "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."

"Public discourse and debate isn't a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional," she said, adding later:

"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."

Palin's full statement, "America's Enduring Strength," can be read on her Facebook page or here, at HyperVocal.

SEE ALSO: From Jeffrey Goldberg, "Why Sarah Palin's Use of 'Blood Libel' is a Great Thing."

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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