Anger is clearly one of several appropriate responses to the repellant news about the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal.
But it's seldom these days that you hear a public figure appear to call for a lynch mob, in this case against Jerry Sandusky, as Sarah Palin seemed to do during an appearance on Fox News Tuesday evening.
Speaking to Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Palin said:
... You know, I say about this assistant coach, Sandusky, hang him from the highest tree. I'll bring the rope. I think it's pathetic, it's horrible, it's atrocious what took place...
Her comments came in the context of a reaction to a question in which Van Susteren had asked the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee for a reaction to GOP presidential candidate and Penn State alumnus Rick Santorum's recommendation that his school's football team not accept a post-season bowl bid. The larger context was a discussion in which Palin sized up the GOP presidential field.
Palin said she thought the team should go to bowl game since the players had nothing to do with Sandusky's alleged actions. (Her Penn State comments come at about the 14:30 mark in the video.)
Immediately aware of the incendiary nature of Palin's comments, Van Susteren, a lawyer by training, gave Palin a chance to walk them back. She wasn't really proposing vigilantism was she? Palin agreed that, indeed, a guilty verdict was needed before any hanging:
VAN SUSTEREN: Lest that we have — we start too much of a fire — a fire mess in the media — I assume when you say hang him by the tree that you are being — that you also believe in the process, the criminal justice process because I know everyone's going to say that you wanted no process but just hang him by the tree — you don't want to just hang him by the tree. I assume you want a criminal process?
PALIN: Hang him from the highest tree and I'll bring the rope if he is guilty of what has been alleged. If he abused these young children and ruined their lives, unless they get a lot of help, Greta, in order to deal with the victimization that they are now suffering from — he needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law if he is truly guilty.
The "fullest extent" of the Pennsylvania law in cases where adults are convicted of a felony for raping a child or children would be a lengthy prison term or terms that could add up to life in prison. It isn't the death penalty.