Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin Reuters
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks to reporters at a storage area containing supplies for shelters run by Samaritan's Purse, a Christian charity group, in Cabaret Dec. 12, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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Prominent United States Republican Sarah Palin on Monday defended her reference to "blood libel" that aroused controversy last week when she used the term to condemn criticism linking her fiery rhetoric to the Arizona shootings.

"Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands. In this case, that's exactly what was going on," Palin told Fox News in her first interview since the controversy erupted over her remarks.

"Just two days before, an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal had that term in its title. And that term has been used for eons," said Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate.

Palin's reference last week to "blood libel," a false, centuries-old allegation that Jews were killing children to use their blood in religious rituals, launched a new round of criticism of Palin's rhetoric.

She used the term in a video posted on her Facebook page in which she accused her critics of being irresponsible in rushing to blame the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson on vitriolic campaign speech.

The shooting spree killed six people and wounded 13, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Jared Lee Loughner has been charged in the attack.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and a favorite of Tea Party conservatives, had been a focus of criticism from the left since the shootings for urging followers to "reload, not retreat" after last year's healthcare debate and publishing an electoral map identifying vulnerable Democratic congressional districts, including Giffords', with rifle cross-hairs.

In the interview on Fox News, where she is a paid contributor, Palin said the Arizona tragedy should not be allowed to quell vigorous political debate that "makes America exceptional."

"I am not ready to make an announcement about what my political future is going to be," she said. "But I will tell you ... I am not going to sit down. I am not going to shut up."