Sarah Palin: Not an Accessory

In 2010, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, answering a direct question, told a national TV audience, "We are on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action." After the Tucson shooting, Palin's PAC immediately took down the gun sight map.

Two Mondays ago, we played the above sound bite and discussed the gun sight map on Caplis and Silverman, as did others, including Fox News. Heck, we had discussed the Palin PAC gun sight map when it first went up in 2010. These discussions of Sarah Palin were reasonable. Paul Krugman and Clarence Dupnik went way too far, but Sarah Palin was inevitably going to be discussed.

Sarah Palin might have quietly absorbed the aftershocks necessarily coming her way, but that would not be Sarah Barracuda. Via social network, on the same day of the nationally televised memorial, we learned about her victimhood. That was followed by her aggrieved appearance on Hannity, where former Governor Palin endured a pity-pat interview with the host.
Sean Hannity empathetically (or just pathetically) gushed that he had googled "Sarah Palin and Tucson shooting" and come up with nearly 10,000 hits. Sarah Palin, sporting her sternest expression, explained the misery she was feeling.

"In a situation like we have just faced in these last eight days of being falsely accused of being an accessory to murder, I and others need to make sure that we too are shedding light on truth so a lie cannot continue to live," Palin said. "If a lie does live, then of course your career is over and your reputation is thrashed and you will be ineffective in what we intend to do."

Employing Sean Hannity's research methodology, I googled "Sarah Palin and accessory" and the top hit till now was Sarah Palin's "Rimless Glasses Becoming a Must-Have Accessory." On Hannity last Monday, Palin was apparently invoking the criminal law concept of accessory, but she got that wrong too.

The criminal law concept of accessory has specific meaning and is not well understood by many smart people, and that may include Sarah Palin. Accessory to murder contemplates a third party who, with knowledge of the specific murderous act, intentionally renders assistance to that specific murderer. Given that Sarah Palin never heard of Jared Loughner or his evil plans, not even a Krugman or a Dupnik could make such an absurd allegation as Palin being an accessory.

Just as with "blood libel," Sarah Palin can rightly claim that other prominent people have used the term accessory the same way that she did. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly complained loud, long and strong about those who had accused him of being an accessory to the atrocity.
O'Reilly and other analysts have correctly focused on Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's intentional and irresponsible commentaries following the tragedy. Before somebody with brains told Dupnik to shut up, the bumbling sheriff had opined about Loughner's likely insanity, words perhaps calculated to help this mass murderer to a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.

My last accusatory sentence is closer to a specific accessory allegation than anything media members said about Palin or others. Sarah Palin was wronged by some professional pundits, but not with any colorable claim of being a criminal accessory.

Words matter. Sarah Palin's usage of certain words are ruining her mainstream popularity, and affecting assessments of her credibility and acumen. A Palin aide suggested the gun sight map really involved surveyor's symbols. Was Sarah Palin's contemporaneous tweet, "Don't Retreat -- Instead RELOAD!" a washing machine reference?