Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin defended her use of the term 'blood libel' on Monday, saying she meant what she said when she chided critics for accusing conservative media figures of having played a role in instigating the recent Arizona shootings.
[B]lood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands and in this case that's exactly what was going on, Palin said in a televised interview.
I appreciated those who understood what I meant that a group of people being falsely accused of having blood on their hands. That is what blood libel means.
Palin's initial statement came last week, just days after a shooting in Tucson claimed 6 lives and injured 14, including critical injuries to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who is now recovering.
She said critics had been irresponsible in blaming the massacre on heated campaign rhetoric.
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, she said.
Blood libel also refers to a false accusation that Jews had killed children to use their blood in the baking of Passover matzos (unleavened bread), a religious ritual.
After the Massacre, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik claimed that the state of Arizona had become a Mecca for prejudice and bigotry. He said vitriolic rhetoric in the media was damaging the country. In subsequent statements, he blamed conservative media figure Rush Limbaugh and others like him of being irresponsible.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman also weighed in asking where the toxic rhetoric was coming from.
It's coming, overwhelmingly, from the right, he said. He said that commentators such as Rachel Maddow or Keith Olberman used caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans.
But you won't hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist, at the Washington Post, he said. Listen to Beck or Bill O'Reilly, and you will.
He said it was up to Republican leaders to decide if the Arizona massacre would make the public's discourse less toxic.
He wondered if they would accept the reality of what's happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric or try to dismiss the massacre as athe mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League focused on the use of the term blood libel, but backed Palin on defending herself against critics of conservatives.
We wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history, he said.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty distanced himself from Palin's comment, saying the phrase was not a device I would have used.
However former Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada Sharron Angle defended Palin's use of vivid language. Angle herself had previously referred to using Second Amendment remedies, in reference to the constitutional amendment which allows people to bear arms.
Harvard Law school professor Alan Dershowitz recently argued that Palin used the term correctly.
The term blood libel has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse, he said in a released statement. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People, its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report.