Sarah Palin today accused her opponents of manufacturing a "blood libel" by suggesting her rhetoric and campaign tactics had anything to do with the Arizona shootings.
Four days after an incident which left six people dead and critically injured the congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Palin released a video statement condemning the attack.
She denied that a now infamous campaign map showing Giffords's electoral district in the cross hairs of a gun had influenced the shooter Jared Lee Loughner.
In an attack on her accusers, she said: "Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."
Palin's bizarre use of language is sure to provoke further controversy. A blood libel refers to a notorious passage in St Matthew where Jews said of the crucifixion: "Let his blood be on our heads." Later it referred to a medieval myth that Jews killed their children as part of a religious ritual. Giffords is Arizona's first Jewish congresswoman.
Palin, who is expected to run for president in 2012, pointed out that her Democrats had used similar target maps in election campaigns: "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. 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."
Apart from an initial message of condemnation, Palin has been unusually silent since the attack, while debate has raged in America about her role in the use of extreme rhetoric.
In an interview in March after her office had been vandalised, Giffords herself warned there would be "consequences" for depicting her district in the cross hairs of a gun.
After the shooting the Pima county sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, called for an end to "the anger, the hatred, the bigotry" in America.
Palin denied that rhetoric had become more extreme. Her statement, reproduced on her Facebook page, said: "There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated?"
She added: "I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened, at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event."