Sanders Fundraised in 2011 by Falsely Blaming Sarah Palin for Tucson Shooting

Bernie Sanders / Getty
June 14, 2017

Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders once fundraised by blaming conservatives and then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R.) for the 2011 attack on former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D., Ariz.).

"This horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate," Sanders wrote in a fundraising email in January 2011. "Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred."

Giffords was critically wounded by a gunshot wound to the head during an assassination attempt. Twenty people were shot, and six of them were killed.

"Congresswoman Giffords publicly expressed concerns when Sarah Palin, on her website, placed her district in the cross-hairs of a rifle—and identified her by name below the image—as an encouragement to Palin supporters to eliminate her from Congress," the Vermont senator wrote.

Sanders was hardly alone in blaming Palin at the time; the New York Times, the Atlantic, the New York Daily News, and Gawker all pointed to the map with the crosshairs.

There was never any actual evidence presented that Jared Loughner, a diagnosed schizophrenic who pleaded guilty to the shooting, was a Palin fan, a Tea Party supporter, or that he had ever seen Palin's "crosshairs" map. One friend tweeted that "he was left wing, quite liberal."

Sanders today finds himself trading places with Palin after a gunman on Wednesday shot five people at a Republican congressional baseball practice, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.). Police identified the shooter as James T. Hodgkinson, whose social media postings indicated that he had a deep loathing of Republicans and an infatuation with Sanders.

Sanders responded by condemning the attack and distancing himself from Hodgkinson.

"I am sickened by this despicable act," he said in a statement. "Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms."