Earlier today, the media reported on a supposed dust-up between Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin over the controversial use of “crosshairs” symbols on her website. Peter Hamby at CNN tweeted that “Pawlenty didn’t really ‘jab’ or ‘swipe’ at Palin,” but the former Minnesota governor began taking criticism from Palin supporters nonetheless. What Pawlenty said was that the imagery wasn’t really “his style” and he wouldn’t have used them while defending Palin from accusations that her website had anything to do with the act of lunacy that took place this weekend in Tucson. Pawlenty and I talked about this and I asked him to clarify what he said, and discuss what he has written about Palin in his new book Courage to Stand:
EM: Welcome to the podcast.
TP: Good to be back with you, Ed, thanks for having me.
EM: Well, the reason why — I know we only have a couple of minutes here, Governor — is you’ve, ah, you’ve been doing a lot of interviews and you made mention of the, ah, controversy surrounding the shootings in Tucson, the awful, awful shootings in Tucson. And one of the things that you’ve said apparently has been misconstrued or, or misunderstood. You were asked about the “crosshairs” on Sarah Palin’s website, and you were asked if you would have used that type of symbolism. You said no, that wasn’t really your style. Would you like to talk a little bit more about that and tell us what was it you were intending?
TP: Sure, Ed. You know, all day long I’ve been getting asked about the incident, and I’ve been saying we need to make sure we are clear about the evidence, the facts here, and not make any sweeping judgments or condemnations, judgments about anybody or anything. What we have here is a mentally deranged individual, who sadly undertook a senseless and irrational act, and to assign blame to anybody — Sarah Palin or anyone else — is not fair and it’s not correct, and I’ve been saying that throughout the day. In these other interviews I got asked about the bullseye or the crosshairs, and I said, you know there is no evidence, no evidence that that contributed to or was a cause or a motivating factor at this point in this incident. And people should quit trying to connect those two. And then unrelated to all that, of course I get asked about whether would I have done it, and I just said it’s not my style. I think in one of the interviews I said I wouldn’t have done it, it’s just not my style. But I didn’t try to connect that to the incident or blame anybody for the incident.
EM: I mean, were you — you weren’t criticizing Sarah Palin’s choice to do this, on her website, then?
TP: In fact, I’ve been using the day to say people shouldn’t try to connect this to Sarah Palin, because there’s no evidence of that and that it’s unfair. In fact, I just got off Cavuto here five minutes ago and said exactly that on the air; I’ve been saying that throughout the day. So to say somehow this is, you know, the reverse of it, that somehow I’ve been criticizing her just isn’t accurate.
EM: Governor Pawlenty, you have the new book out Courage to Stand; it’s just come out today, in fact. And you do talk about Sarah Palin in the book. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you say about Sarah Palin in the book?
TP: Thank you, Ed. I think Governor Palin is a remarkable leader; I have a lot of respect for her. I think she is really is a dynamic voice for the conservative movement. And I think she has gotten unfairly criticized. I spend a lot of time in the book talking about how much I admire and respect her, in positive terms. And I hope people have a chance to look at that in the book Courage to Stand, so thank you for asking about that, and like I said, I think she is a remarkable leader and I have a lot of respect for her.
EM: Governor Pawlenty, just really quickly, I know you’ve got to go, but this … really quickly, do you think that the media has, has performed well in the last 72 hours on this story?
TP: Well, some have and some haven’t, but again with all of these things, it was like the bridge collapse on the 35W.
TP: You had people spouting off, some in the media, some in politics, you know, saying that they were going to use it to carve me up politically. There were others just making wild accusations about how and why the bridge fell. It turned out a year later the National Transportation Safety Board found the bridge fell because of a 1960s-era design flaw, and people were just wrong. So in these moments of crisis, in these moments of emotion, it’s really important that people get good information and good facts, and distribute it fairly. And I think some elements of the media jumped on this in a way that was wrong. There is no evidence — repeat, no evidence — that this mentally deranged individual had as a motive or a cause, some politicians or media outlets behavior [inaudible] connected at this point, Ed, and people who are trying to connect them are unfair and inaccurate. And it’s wrong.
I’ve seen the excerpts from the book regarding Palin and I know that Pawlenty spoke highly of her in the book. He called John McCain’s choice of Palin as a running mate “a bold move,” and wrote that it energized the GOP campaign. His answer appears to have been used out of context as a criticism rather than a description of his own campaigning style, which is how he intended it.