In a Fox News interview Monday night, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lashed out at the criticism she received in the wake of the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Palin said her critics were interested in silencing her conservative agenda, but said, "I will continue to speak out. They're not going to shut me up."
"Those on the left hate my message and will do all that they can to stop me because they don't like the message," Palin told Sean Hannity of Fox.
Palin's appearance on the network, for which she is a paid contributor, was her first extended interview since the Tucson tragedy that left six dead and 14 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
The former governor and vice presidential candidate almost immediately came under scrutiny after the shooting, since Giffords was one of several lawmakers "targeted" on a 2010 electoral map Palin's political action committee published online, which featured images of crosshairs over the targeted districts. Palin was further criticized after she released a video response to the shooting in which she defended herself. Critics said Palin focused too much on herself in her video message.
In her interview this evening, Palin her video message "isn't about me," but about all conservatives who were unfairly targeted after the shooting. There is no indication that alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner was influenced by Palin or others.
"My defense wasn't self-defense. It was about defending those falsely accused," she said, citing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party movement. "Soon the entire state of Arizona was being falsely accused of somehow being accessories to this."
Palin acknowledged that the map featured on her PAC's website was removed after the shooting incident.
"I don't think [removing the map] was inappropriate, if that was going to cause more heartburn," she said. "Knowing that that had absolutely nothing to do with an apolitical or perhaps even left-leaning criminal, I didn't have a problem with that being taken down."
She also addressed the backlash she received from some Jewish groups for using the term "blood libel" in her video response to the shooting (a loaded, historically anti-Semitic term). "Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused," Palin explained.
Palin said all the criticism surrounding her video amounted to a diversion.
"I believe there are many on the left who don't want Congress to get back to work," she said. "It's easier for critics of a commonsense, conservative agenda to try to divert and distract from issues at hand."
The former governor said some on the left must not have listened to President Obama's speech in Tucson last week in which he called for a more civil discourse. She said there were parts of the president's speech "that really hit home," but she added that the setting was a "bit bizarre."
"It was kind of like a pep rally," she said. "The setting did distract away from the message."
She said she agreed with the president that "the number one thing to remember here is that lives were lost."
Palin acknowledged that both she and her children receive death threats, but she said she would continue working in public life.
"Other people are facing much greater hardship and making much greater sacrifices than I am," she said. "I'll take the darts and the arrows because I know others have my back, and I have their back."
She added that she is "not ready to make an announcement" about her future political career but that if her fight for her conservative agenda "leads to being a candidate for high office, I will announce that at the right time."