WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Sarah Palin, in a statement Wednesday, called accusations that political rhetoric inspired the Tucson shooter a "blood libel," setting off more controversy.
Palin's political action committee used a map last year with crosshairs in targeted congressional districts, including that held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was wounded in the shooting Saturday that left six dead and 14 wounded. The former Alaska governor said in a video politicians and citizens are "free to debate" their vision of the country.
"But, 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. "That is reprehensible."
Jewish groups reacted angrily to the term "blood libel," the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. It originally described an anti-Semitic belief that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for matzos for Passover.
Howard Kurtz, longtime media critic for The Washington Post, said in the Daily Beast Palin blew a chance to address the country "in a calmer, more inclusive way."
"Had Palin scoured a thesaurus, she could not have come up with a more inflammatory phrase," Kurtz said.
Liberal Jewish groups released strong denunciations, the Post reported. Even Jonah Goldberg of the right-wing National Review said use of the term "isn't ideal."
The Anti-Defamation League defended Palin's right to criticize her critics but added, "While the term 'blood-libel' has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history."