Within hours of the Saturday, Jan. 8, shooting spree in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and 14 — including the gunman’s apparent primary target, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — wounded, a nationwide discussion — perhaps “argument” is a better word — had begun over the role that extreme political rhetoric had played in the massacre. And one of the first names to pop up in that discussion was that of Sarah Palin, the former Alaskan governor and former vice presidential candidate turned rightwing political pundit and reality TV star.
Giffords was one of the Democratic members of Congress who, in a campaign flyer posted on Palin’s website, had been “targeted” for defeat by Republicans in last November’s elections. The flyer included a graphic of a map with the “targeted’ districts marked by gunsights. That flyer along with Palin’s “don’t retreat, reload” comment, along with Nevada rightwinger Sharon Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies” comment, have gotten a lot of play in the days since the shootings.
Palin’s people took the flyer off the website within hours of the shooting, but it wasn’t until today that Palin herself spoke up, releasing a video in which she declares that political rhetoric had nothing to do with the shootings in Arizona and decrying the “irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame” for the massacre to her and other rightwing pundits. The responsibility, Palin declared, lies solely with the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner.
Since we don’t know yet — and really may never know — what prompted this young man to open fire at Giffords and the others on Saturday, I find myself agreeing with Palin, at least a little. Let’s get our facts straight, so to speak, before we start laying blame.