Sarah Palin was sharply criticized in the days following the January 2011 assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords for placing the Arizona Democrat on a "target list" of House members she wanted to unseat in the 2010 midterm elections.
See more: Gabrielle Giffords Bio
Many liberal pundits claimed Palin, a former Alaska governor and unsuccessful 2008 vice presidential candidate, was partially to blame for inciting violence against Giffords through incendiary political speech laced with violent imagery.
Conservatives came to Palin's defense, pointing out that there was no evidence the 22-year-old Tucson, Ariz., man charged with shooting Giffords was motivated by Palin or like-minded anti-government tea party activists.
They also cited reports that the alleged shooter had expressed disdain for Giffords as early as 2007, long before Palin emerged on the national political scene.
Sarah Palin Responds to Gabrielle Giffords Shooting
Palin posted a Facebook response to the shooting of Giffords.
It read: "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."
Conservative radio and cable-television host Glenn Beck said Palin sent him an email that read, in part: "I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this."
Sarah Palin Put Gabrielle Giffords on Target List
Despite Palin's condolences to the family of Giffords, critics claimed she bore some responsibility for the shooting for placing the Democratic lawmaker on a "target list" of 20 House members she wanted to unseat in 2010.
Palin's politican-action committee, SarahPAC, identified the 20 seats on her target list with what appeared to be crosshairs of a rifle sight. She also encouraged supporters "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!"
Making specific reference to Giffords, Palin wrote: "We'll aim for these races and many others."
Sarah Palin Aide Defends Crosshairs on Gabrielle Giffords
In interviews with the media, a Palin aide downplayed the crosshairs on the SarahPAC map, saying they were designed to be symbols typically used on maps to identify places of interest.
"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply cross-hairs like you'd see on maps," the Palin aide said.
"I don't understand how anybody could be held responsible for somebody who is completely mentally unstable like this. Where I come from the person that is actually shooting is the one that's culpable."
About the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting
Giffords was meeting with constituents outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., the morning of Jan. 8 when a gunman identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire, wounding the congresswoman and 19 others.
Authorities said Giffords was the intended target of the attack.
Killed in the mass shooting were John M. Roll, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, a 9-year-old girl and at least four others, including an aide to Giffords.
Neurosurgeons at University Medical Center in Tucson performed emergency surgery on Giffords and said they were optimistic about her recovery.
No Evidence Linking Gabrielle Giffords Shooter to Sarah Palin
Despite attempts to tie Loughner to Palin and the tea party, neither law enforcement nor court records indicated any relationship between them, although the shooter did express anti-government sentiments in online postings.
Loughner believe the government was engaging in mind control and brainwash through control of grammar, according to a YouTube post. He was also said to have rejected U.S. currency.
But Loughner showed interest in far left and far right concepts, and his ideology defied classification; his reading list included Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, and Ayn Rand's We The Living.
Those who knew Loughner described him not as a political activist but as a loner who was mentally unstable.