The late Andrew Breitbart helped Sarah Palin defend herself when Fox News Channel’s former Chairman Roger Ailes denied her the opportunity to respond on air to the media’s false accusations framing her for inciting the attempted assassination of former Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (D-AZ) in the days immediately following the 2011 Tucson mass shooting incident.
“If it weren’t for Breitbart, so much of our commonsense defense wouldn’t have gotten out there, because I was working for Fox News at the time, and I was not allowed to go on the air to defend myself for days,” Palin said, speaking publicly about this for the first time, during a Friday interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with Breitbart’s Senior Editor-at-Large Rebecca Mansour.
The media firestorm surrounding the 2011 Giffords shooting actually began during the 2010 midterm elections, when Democrats accused Palin of inciting violence because her political action committee (PAC), SarahPAC, circulated a map with crosshairs over congressional districts that the Republican Party hoped to win that year. Palin’s graphic highlighted 20 specific swing districts that she and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) carried in the 2008 presidential race but were represented by a Democrat in Congress. With Palin’s help, Republican candidates successfully won 19 of those 20 districts in the 2010 midterms. The one seat that did not swing to Republicans was held by Gabby Giffords, who was shot on January 8, 2011, a few months after winning her re-election bid, when a mentally ill gunman, Jared Loughner, opened fire at a Tucson, Arizona, constituent gathering, wounding Giffords and killing six others.
Democrats and their establishment media allies cast blame on Palin for the mass shooting. However, as Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak reported, the public eventually learned that Giffords’ shooter “was mentally disturbed and had no political motivations,” and Palin’s map graphic “was virtually identical to those used by Democrats for years, depicting targets atop contested congressional districts.”
“There is no evidence whatsoever of political incitement in the Giffords case,” concluded Pollak.
Fox News’s management denied Palin’s requests to defend herself on the cable network against the aforementioned slander. And Palin, a Fox News contributor at the time, was also prevented by her strictly enforced employment contract from doing any rival media appearances without prior authorization from Fox management.
“I think that that time was our toughest time in this last decade of being out there on a public platform, [with] false accusations that we were to blame for the Gabby Giffords shooting,” said Palin. “If it weren’t for Breitbart, so much of our commonsense defense wouldn’t have gotten out there, because I was working for Fox News at the time, and I was not allowed to go on the air to defend myself for days, and finally I bucked management of Fox News—I never even talked about this publicly—I bucked management and said, ‘I’ll do my own video, and I’ll post it, and I’ll explain to people that, no, we are not to blame.’ My relationship with Fox was never the same after that.”
Palin noted Ailes’ repeated refusal to allow her a platform to defend herself from a barrage of media attacks falsely accusing her of inciting mass murder.
“I had asked [Roger Ailes], ‘How many days do we have to go listening to this with no defense articulated at all? May I please go on the air?’ And he wouldn’t let me,” said Palin. “So that was a tough time.”
Mansour, who worked as a senior aide and speechwriter for Palin at the time, reflected on how Democrats and their news media allies sought to lay blame for the mass murder and attempted assassination of Giffords at the feet of Palin and her staff.
“That whole Gabby Giffords thing,” said Mansour. “It was one of the worst moments, and we felt like we were besieged by people accusing us falsely, and your heart was just broken, too, because you’re a mom, and you’re watching the people suffering. I know this hits you really hard at home, because you have a big heart. What was interesting, when you look back, is that you have had instances like this again and again with the media, with a vicious media that just targets you and your family and just goes after you for these things.”
“And I look at President Trump, right now, and the stuff that he faces—and believe me, it’s just awful, the fake news crap—but here is my take,” Mansour continued. “[Trump] always had connections with other media figures, he had a lot of money, and an organization defending him. But when you came on the scene, you were just an ordinary American, your family was very middle-class, just ordinary folks, you had risen up from the grassroots as a corruption-buster who was elected governor of Alaska, and you did not have a giant megaphone of people in the establishment media back east [defending you]. So when these people just came at you, it was really very scary, it was like being surrounded. Till this day, I still hear people repeat lies about you, and I’m like, ‘You have no idea that that’s completely bogus.’ How do feel about this now and what were the lessons learned?”
“I don’t live by the praise of man so I know I’m not going to die by their criticisms,” said Palin. “So whatever they say, I don’t care what the critics say.”
Palin described the period as trying for her and her family, noting that the intensity and hostility of biased media attacks take a toll on even the strongest family.
“[I wish] people understood what it does to a family, how it potentially could rip apart a family because everybody has a different idea of how to react to the circumstances around you, and that causes some stress,” said Palin. “I thank God every day that I have a strong family, and we’re doing great. Hopefully our story could inspire people to know that whatever they’re facing, the sun will come out tomorrow and things can get better. It’s just a matter of how you react to sometimes horrible circumstances around you.”
“Still to this day, the New York Times has still alluded to [the Giffords shoot] and placed blame,” Palin noted, alluding to a New York Times op-ed in June of 2017 that again blamed Palin for the 2011 mass shooting in Arizona. Palin then filed a defamation lawsuit against the Times for falsely accusing her of inciting Loughner to shoot Giffords.
Mansour recounted how she met Andrew Breitbart and a person the Breitbart News founder described as “one of his really smart friends” for the first time in 2011 when they offered to help Palin and her team.
“That was the first time I met Andrew Breitbart,” said Mansour. “It was during that time. It was a very troubled time. Our PAC was being falsely implicated in something that had absolutely nothing to do with us … and it was Andrew Breitbart who offered to help us. He basically came to me and said, ‘Hey, how can I help? And I want to introduce you to one of my really smart friends who’s going to help you, too, and by the way, his name is Joel Pollak.’ And that was how I first met Joel Pollak.”
Seven years later, Pollak would become Mansour’s co-host on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight.
Breitbart News Tonight airs Monday through Friday on SiriusXM’s Patriot channel 125 from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific).
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.