The news was barely out today when social networks were erupting, blaming Sarah Palin and the tea party for inciting the 22-year-old alleged gunman who shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, and 16 others in a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. Giffords was one of those 20 moderate Republicans and Democrats that were on Palin's now infamous "target list" that Palin compiled early last year. The graphic that went with the list features rifle scope-like cross hairs on certain legislative districts.
Palinistas are furious over the accusations. Read here and here (just for starters). They blame the left using a tragedy to score political points. A Palin staffer, Rebecca Mansour told a radio talk show host Saturday that doing so is "obscene" and "appalling." In fact, she said that the "target list" was not intended to allude to guns.
"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights," she said.
"It's surveyor's symbols," the interviewer Tammy Bruce suggested. Bruce, a Palin supporter, describes herself as "a gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, Tea Party Independent Conservative. " Her show is promoted as a "chick with a gun and a microphone."
Mansour agreed. She said that the graphic was contracted out to a professional. They approved it quickly without thinking about it. "We never imagined, it never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent," she said. Rather, she said, that it was simply "crosshairs that you would see on a map."
There is "nothing irresponsible about our graphic," she said.
She did not, however, mention the "don't retreat, instead- RELOAD!" Palin tweet that went out shortly after the graphic was posted on both her Facebook page and SarahPac's website, directing them to the graphic. The tweet turned quickly into a Palin mantra. Many, even then, urged her to stop using such violent rhetoric. If she heard them, she did not retreat.
The graphic remains on Palin's Facebook page but was removed this morning on SarahPac's website. Mansour said that removing it did not constitute a "scrub" of Palin's site, as some had been alleging. She said that someone from SarahPac contacted her this morning, and was wondering if it should be taken down given the circumstances. She said that because the midterm elections had passed, it shouldn't have been there anyway.
To be clear: nothing has emerged that would indicate that the alleged gunman, Jared L. Loughner, was in any way influenced by Sarah Palin or the tea party. Someone who claims to be his high school friend claims that he was, in 2007, "left wing." However, it's hard to discern any political bent from his strange Youtube ramblings.
Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Rebecca Mansour as a spokeswoman. Mansour took issue with that description. She said, "She (Palin) speaks for herself. I was speaking for myself."