Ex-Gov. Sarah Palin: Nothing "inappropriate" in her committee's use of a graphic with cross hairs targeting candidates. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 2010

WASHINGTON - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, defending herself against criticism following the Tucson shootings, said she used the term "blood libel" to describe comments made by those who falsely tried to link conservatives to the assassination attempt against U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Speaking out for the first time since she used the term in a video, Palin said on Fox's Sean Hannity show Monday that the term referred to those "falsely accused of having blood on their hands."

Some Jewish groups strongly protested her use of the term, which historically was used to accuse Jews of using the blood of Christians in religious rituals.

"I think the critics again were using anything that they could gather out of that statement," she said. "You can spin up anything out of anybody's statements that are released and use them against the person who is making the statement."

Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said the criticism won't stop her from speaking out and accusing Democrats of taking the country in the wrong direction.

"They can't make us sit down and shut up," she said.

Palin said her political action committee's use of cross hairs to identify targeted congressional districts for Republican pickups was not original and has been used by Democrats. As she spoke, a Democratic map was shown on the screen with circular targets of districts Democrats wanted to win.

The former governor said the cross-hairs graphic was taken down by the PAC's hired graphic artist after the criticism began.

"I don't think that was inappropriate," she said

The shooting on Jan. 8 killed six and wounded 13, including Giffords. Her district was among those in the Palin site's cross hairs.

Palin said she has "repeated over and over my condemnation of violence." She said she was frustrated that conservatives who responded to false accusations blaming them for the shootings have become part of the story.

Asked why she was singled out for criticism, Palin, speaking from her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, said, "I know that a lot of those on the left hate my message, and they will do all they can to stop me because they don't like the message."

Palin added, "I receive a lot of death threats. My children do."

The former governor said she supported calls for civility in politics but added, "We should not use an event like that in Arizona to stifle debate."

Asked what she thought of President Obama's speech at a Tucson memorial for the victims, Palin said, "I thought there were parts of it that really hit home that all of us can hold on to and live out."

Palin received lower marks for her handling of the tragedy from more Americans than President Obama did, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday found.

Nearly eight in 10 of those surveyed gave Obama high marks for his response, and 71 percent of Republicans approved of Obama's leadership after the shootings, the Post reported.

About 30 percent of those polled approved of Palin's response; among Republicans, her positive marks rose to 56 percent.

More than half of those polled said the tone of the country's political discourse didn't contribute to the shootings.

The poll of 1,053 adults, conducted by telephone Jan. 13-16, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.