Speaking for the first time about the weekend shootings in Tucson, Ariz., former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) said she’s been saddened by “irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event,” complained about the media and suggested a new legislative proposal would limit free speech.
“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,” Palin said in a taped video released via Facebook early Wednesday morning, speaking straight to the camera, wearing a flag pin and with a U.S. flag standing to her left.
The video statement was a departure from the short messages the former governor usually posts on Facebook and Twitter. It is the first public reaction to those who made Palin’s “Take Back the 20” campaign part of the conversation about violent rhetoric and how it may have contributed to the shootings in Tucson.
As part of that campaign, Palin posted online a map of the 20 Congressional districts held by Democrats, identified by rifle-scope cross hairs. The district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was among those on the map, which was taken down from Palin’s political action committee website within hours of Saturday’s events.
Palin said to the camera that less than one week after Giffords read from the First Amendment on the House floor, “another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.” She did not name Rep. Robert Brady, but the reference to the Pennsylvania Democrat’s bill introduced following the tragedy was clear.
“No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And 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 said.
Quoting Ronald Reagan and mentioning President Barack Obama, Palin expressed her family’s sympathy for the victims. Palin also asked the press to back off attempts to link speech with what happened.
“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. 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.”
She closed with a call to be “better” than the political arguments the nation has seen in the last few days.
“America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country,” she said.
Also commenting on the shootings for the first time Wednesday was former Senate candidate Sharron Angle, who has been mentioned along with Palin this week because she discussed “Second Amendment remedies” in her attempt to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D).
The Nevada Republican said the events should be condemned as isolated violence from an unstable man and defended both herself and Palin.
“Expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon the people’s Constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant. The irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the TEA Party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger,” Angle said in a statement on her Facebook page released after midnight. “Finger-pointing towards political figures is an audience-rating game and contradicts the facts as they are known. ... I have consistently called for reasonable political dialogue on policy issues to encourage civil political education and debate. Inappropriately attributing blame of a singular tragedy to achieve a political agenda is contrary to civil discourse, and is a media ploy to which I refuse to belong."
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.