Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks during the Republican 2010 Victory Fundraising Rally in Orlando, Florida
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in Orlando, Florida October 23, 2010. REUTERS

Sarah Palin has broken her silence on the Arizona shootings, striking back at critics who have implied, or said outright, that Palin was to some degree culpable for inspiring the assassin Jared Lee Loughner due to shooting metaphors Palin has used in political campaigns.

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, Palin said in in a video statement linked to her Facebook page.

The shootings have touched off a debate about whether the nation’s heated political rhetoric has played any role in inciting violence. Palin was drawn into the debate by commentators remarking on graphics once posted on her SarahPac website.

On the site, Palin had a map of U.S. Congressional districts with a gun sight's crosshairs placed on districts where the conservative former Vice Presidential candidate wanted voters to reject the Representative and elect someone favored by Palin.

One of the places thus depicted was the Arizona district represented by Gabrielle Giffords, the Democratic Congresswoman who was the target of Loughner's bloody rampage at a Tucson shopping mall on Jan. 8.

Giffords was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head. She is in critical condition but doctors have recently said that her chances are good for survival and recovery.

Six people attending Giffords' constituent event were killed by the gunfire and 14 people were wounded. Loughner, who is in custody, has been charged with murder and attempted murder by federal authorities and is expected to be further charged by local authorities.

The Palin website removed the crosshairs map immediately following the incident. A Palin spokesperson denied that the crosshairs represented gun sights. Palin herself has referred to the symbol as a bull's eye.

The former Governor of Alaska has also previously used the phrase don't retreat, reload, in speeches to supporters.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who may well be a rival of Palin's for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, distanced himself from Palin by saying that he would never use a device like the crosshairs map.

Pawlenty did not blame Palin or the map for the Tucson massacre, but called for a more civil, thoughtful discourse in this country.

Congresswoman Giffords herself criticized Palin's crosshairs map in March 2010.

The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district, Giffords said. When people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action.

The term ‘blood libel’ used by Palin refers to a false accusation, usually leveled against Jews as a pretest for persecution, saying that the group falsely accused, murders children to use blood in religious rituals.