ORLANDO – Former Congressman Alan Grayson has jumped into the still heated debate over the cause of the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that left a sitting congresswoman in critical condition after being shot in the head.
In a letter emailed to his supporters, Grayson lodged his criticism at former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, saying she needed to take a serious look at her past statements before suggesting she was a victim of scathing liberal attacks.
“When I opened my web browser yesterday, at Yahoo.com, there was Sarah Palin, smiling at me,” Grayson wrote. “ ‘Oh, God,’ I said to myself, ‘what has she done now?’ “
What Grayson had received was an article with the headline, “Palin Defends ‘Blood Libel’ ”.
“That’s interesting, I thought. What else might Palin be defending?” Grayson wrote in his email. “Cannibalism, maybe? Well, it turned out to be a report on Palin’s disjointed remarks on Sean Hannity’s show, regarding the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.”
On Jan. 8, Giffords was shot in the head at a Tucson supermarket while meeting with constituents. A suspect, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, shot her at point-blank range and killed six other people before he was tackled and arrested. Giffords is now recovering following brain surgery, while Loughner has been charged with two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and a count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress.
Palin, who ran on the GOP presidential ticket with John McCain in 2008, had been criticized after the shootings for urging followers during the 2010 election season to “reload, not retreat” and publishing an electoral map identifying potentially vulnerable Democratic congressional districts — including Giffords’ Arizona district — with rifle cross-hairs.
Palin later posted a video on her Facebook page accusing the people who were attacking her of engaging in “blood libel,” a reference to a false claim made centuries ago that Jews were killing children to use their blood in religious rituals.
Palin also gave an interview on Fox News, where she’s a paid contributor, saying the Tucson shooting shouldn’t be used as an excuse to stifle political debate.
Grayson said he watched the reports and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Let me summarize it for you,” he wrote. “ ‘Palin: I am so misunderstood. Hannity: I am so misunderstood. Palin: I am so misunderstood.’
“But there was one person who seemed to understand Sarah Palin quite well — Gabby Giffords, herself, during the health care debate,” Grayson wrote. “Discussing threats against Democratic members of Congress, after the door to her office was shattered, this is what Gabby said.”
He quoted the Arizona congresswoman saying, “You know, for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is the way that she has depicted it is the crosshairs of a gun-sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.”
Grayson then noted Palin’s own response on Hannity’s show when she said, “That map wasn’t an original graphic.”
“What is that remark supposed to be, Sarah? An exculpanation?” Grayson wrote. “Even before I heard earlier Palin’s whining about ‘misguided finger-pointing’ and ‘irresponsible statements from people who are apportioning blame,’ I thought about this — Palin came to my district, and told her people to ‘take me out.’ Palin told people again and again, ‘don’t retreat, reload.’ The day before the health care vote, one of my five-year-old twins received a telephone death threat intended for me. A right-wing commentator offered anyone $100 to punch me in the nose. We received so many threats of violence from teabaggers that we started a file. And the day before Gabby was shot, I received a postcard saying, ‘You better get some personal protection. You could very well be getting your ass kicked soon.’ Cause and effect. As Gabby put it, ‘There are consequences.’ ”
Grayson was first elected in November 2008 to represent Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which included parts of Orlando and Orange, Lake, Osceola and Marion counties. He lost his re-election bid last November to Republican Dan Webster.
State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, a Grayson supporter, noted that even before the campaign season began, Grayson had to endure the taunts of and harassment from his opponents.
“There was never a day when he left the capitol building when two people with video cameras were not harassing him and yelling in his face,” Randolph said.
These kinds of threats, Grayson wrote, are nothing new for Democrats.
“There has been a stream of violence and threats of violence by the right wing against Democrats,” Grayson said. “Gabby warned against it, and then became a terrible victim of it. Palin has instigated it, and then tried to pretend that it doesn’t exist. What do I think? I think that Gabby said it best — ‘We can’t stand for this.’ We have to stand against it.”
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