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In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., much of the public discussion focused on whether political rhetoric has grown too heated.
Giffords is a Democratic representative from a conservative-leaning district. During the 2010 election, Republicans believed Giffords' seat and others like it were likely wins for their party. Republican Sarah Palin included the district on a map that put the crosshairs of a gun sight over selected districts held by Democrats. Back in March, Giffords herself said in an interview that political rhetoric was growing too heated, and specifically mentioned the map. "For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list. But the thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action." (A Palin spokeswoman said they were surveyors marks, not crosshairs.)
To be clear, there's no evidence so far that shooter, Jared Loughner, was involved in politics or even saw the map. Still, some have criticized Palin the wake of the Tuscon shooting for using gun imagery regularly in her public comments.
Several days later, on Jan. 12, 2011, Palin responded to the criticism with a video statement posted to her Facebook account.
"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 the victims' families as we express our sympathy," Palin said in her statement.
But Palin also rejected those who would blame her.
"Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own," Palin said. "They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election." She added that "journalists and pundits" were manufacturing a "blood libel" that political rhetoric somehow played a part in the shooting.
Palin then noted that she has publicly condemned violence.
"As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, 'We know violence isn't the answer. When we "take up our arms", we're talking about our vote.' Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next," Palin said.
We wanted to know the context of her comments and if Palin was giving an accurate rendering of them.
We found that Palin was referring to comments she made at a campaign stop with Sen. John McCain in Tuscon. Palin was supporting McCain, who was facing a primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth.
"And hearing the news reports lately, kind of this ginned up controversy about us common-sense conservatives inciting violence because we happen to oppose some of the things in the Obama administration," Palin said. "We know violence isn't the answer. When we take up our arms, we are talking about our vote. We're talking about being involved in a contested primary like this and picking the right candidate, too, John McCain. We thank you for that. But this BS coming from the 'lame stream media' about us inciting violence -- don't let the conversation be diverted. Don't let a distraction like that get you off track. Keep fighting hard for these candidates who are all about the common-sense conservative solutions that we need."
Palin said that back in March she condemned violence and said, "We know violence isn't the answer. When we 'take up our arms', we're talking about our vote." We checked the transcript and found that was the case. We rate her statement True.
Sarah Palin, America's Enduring Strength, statement on the Arizona shootings, Jan. 12, 2011
Political transcript wire, Former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., deliver remarks at a campaign event, March 26, 2010, accessed via Nexis.
MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," interview with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., March 25, 2010, accessed via Nexis
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