Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jared Loughner and the Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

The Palin Connection

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin

Very little was known about Loughner at that point, and the media hadn't yet zeroed in on the details of Giffords' policies. People were looking to point a finger, and the media were quick to look to the right. In particular, former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was swiftly made a focus. The 2008 Vice Presidential candidate and former Alaskan governor, now a commentator on Fox News, found herself at the center of a controversy because she had employed battle-ready language —commonly used by many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans —on her website, SarahPAC.

The website included a map, with gunsight crosshairs over "targeted" congressional districts—because politicians in those generally conservative areas had supported the 2008 health care reform bill. Among them was Gabrielle Giffords. By 10:30 a.m., almost as soon as it was publicized in connection with the shooting by left-leaning bloggers, the map was gone.

At noon on her Facebook page, Palin issued a statement: "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."

Palin stopped short, though, of addressing her website's "targeted list," and later issued a video statement that drew the ire of critics and put her again on the defensive for the controversial use of the phrase "blood libel."

She said, in part: "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. That is reprehensible. There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal."

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