Palin Accuses Critics Of 'Blood Libel'

Since Saturday's shooting in Tucson, Sarah Palin has found herself at the center of the ongoing debate about violent rhetoric in politics. On Wednesday, Palin released an eight-minute video in response. In the video, Palin condemns the shootings while stressing the importance of America's First Amendment freedoms. Palin also defends her use of a map with cross hairs targeting swing districts around the country, including Rep. Giffords', accusing journalists and pundits of "blood libel." For more on the video, host Robert Siegel speaks with Karen Tumulty, national political reporter for The Washington Post.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Today, Sarah Palin released a video in which she speaks about the shooting in Tucson.

M: Like millions of Americans, I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for victims' families as we express our sympathy.

SIEGEL: Speaking in front of a fireplace and an American flag, Palin talks directly to the camera for almost eight minutes.

Earlier this week, Sarah Palin responded to the shootings in a Facebook posting and in an email to Glenn Beck, but the video is the first time Palin's voice has been heard on the subject.

Karen Tumulty is national political correspondent for The Washington Post, and she joins me now. Welcome to the program.

M: Thank you. It's great to be here.

SIEGEL: This video looks like more than just a comment from a former vice presidential candidate. What does it look like to you?

M: Well, it looks like very much as something on the caliber of a presidential campaign video. This is very unlike what we're more accustomed to from Sarah Palin, which have been these kind of reflexive almost posts on her Facebook page and her Twitter feed.

This was - you know, she waited four days to make this comment. She had been in the middle of a lot of this controversy over our national discourse. And so, it was a very calibrated statement that I think was designed to put her into the conversation today.

SIEGEL: Now Gabrielle Giffords herself had warned that Sarah Palin's political action committee's website, with Giffords' district and other targeted Democratic districts marked with crosshairs, Giffords said - had warned that had consequences.

This is what Sarah Palin said about people who've linked her words with potential acts of violence.

M: Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

SIEGEL: A blood libel. What do you make of that?

M: Well that is a phrase that has been used pretty often this week on the part of a number of conservative commentators, but it is a phrase that actually has hundreds of years of history. And specifically, it refers to an anti-Semitic slander that was often used as a justification for persecuting Jews.

A blood libel has referred to the false stories that were once propagated, that Jews had actually, you know, used the blood of Christians in their rituals.

SIEGEL: And as you said, that accusation in Medieval Europe might have resulted in downgrading the legal status of Jews or killing Jews or expelling Jews - pretty strong words, the blood libel.

M: Yes, and it's unclear, you know, exactly the context in which Sarah Palin had meant this. But this coming against this very, you know, professionally produced video is sort of startling and, in and of itself, became a controversy, that in some ways it has outweighed what she had to say on the - her overall message today.

SIEGEL: Well do you think that this video enhances Sarah Palin's claim to a leadership role, say, among Tea Party conservatives?

M: I think that she is striking a chord, as she has all along, with a relatively narrow band of the electorate. The question is - it was obviously an effort to branch out beyond that and just speak to a larger audience.

And had this statement not included that one controversial and provocative phrase, blood libel, I think it would very clearly have been seen as an effort to reach out to a much broader audience.

SIEGEL: Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, thank you very much for talking with us.

M: Thank you.

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