Updated at 9:59 a.m. on January 10.
Sarah Palin new media aide Rebecca Mansour sought to deflect attention from an electoral map Palin posted on her Facebook page last March in an appearance on Tammy Bruce's radio show Saturday. The images long described as crosshairs or rifle sights were actually just surveyor's symbols, Mansour said.
The exchange, via Slate's David Weigel:
MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn't done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it's basically -- we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.
BRUCE: Well, it's a surveyor's symbol. It's a surveyor's symbol.
MANSOUR: It's a surveyor's symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house -- we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.
While there is no evidence the alleged Tuscon shooter ever saw the electoral target list of SarahPAC, Palin's political action committee -- let alone took it to heart as an instruction -- what is clear is that Palin's history with weaponized rhetoric and imagery will be -- and already has been -- cast in a new light by the shooting in Arizona. And the former Alaska governor seems certain to continue to draw unflattering attention in the months ahead, if only because martial metaphors have been such an essential part of the Palin rhetorical quiver and we are now entering a moment of reflection on the wisdom of brandishing such tropes.
Whatever her aide now says about the target list, there is no question that Palin has reveled in creating a political image bristling with weaponry and gun talk, from her support for aerial wolf-hunting to her hunting and halibut-clubbing adventures on TLC's show Sarah Palin's Alaska.
Indeed, the same day Palin posted the image with the scopes over congressional districts on her Facebook page, she tweeted, "Don't retreat, Instead - RELOAD" and asked her followers to check out her Facebook page for details.
As well, there has been no national political figure in American life more eager to correct media misconceptions in real time that Palin, raising questions about why she did not object in the spring of 2010 when controversy erupted over her imagery, which even Giffords described on national television as representing gun "crosshairs."
One clue to Palin's actual intent comes from a November 4 Twitter posting where she crows about her record using the targeting map. "Remember months ago "bullseye" icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate 'aint bad)," she wrote.
What do you think of Mansour's explanation? Please leave your thoughts in the comments, below.
Garance Franke-Ruta is a senior editor at The Atlantic and oversees politics coverage for TheAtlantic.com.