WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the lawmaker shot by a gunman in her Arizona district on Saturday, had previously warned that overheated political rhetoric had prompted violent threats against her and vandalism at her office.
"It's important for all leaders ... to say, 'Look, we can't stand for this," Giffords told MSNBC last March, when a window in her Tucson office was smashed after Congress passed President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare overhaul.
Giffords said she faced a deluge of threats for her support of the healthcare bill.
"We've had hundreds and hundreds of protesters over the course of the last couple of months," Giffords told MSNBC. "Our office corner has really become an area where the Tea Party movement congregates and the rhetoric is really heated. Not just the calls but the e-mails, the slurs."
A Democrat with a centrist voting record who had just begun her third term, Giffords fended off a tough challenge last year from Republicans who hoped to win control of the politically competitive district.
Her opponent in the November election urged followers to "Get on target for victory" and help "remove" Giffords from office at a June event in which participants could shoot an automatic rifle.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a prominent conservative, for months used a graphic of a gun cross-hairs to urge followers to "reload" and "aim" for Giffords and other Democrats.
"When people do that, they've got to realize that there's consequences to that action," Giffords told MSNBC.
On Saturday, Palin had removed the graphic from her website and offered her condolences on a posting on Facebook.
"We all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice," Palin said, speaking of Saturday's shooting when at least five were killed and 18 in all shot.
Giffords' shooting was condemned by politicians across the political spectrum. House Republican leader Eric Cantor suggested he may delay a vote scheduled for next week to repeal the healthcare law.
"We will remain in constant communication regarding any schedule changes," Cantor said in a statement, adding that he was "deeply horrified" by the shooting. (Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Philip Barbara)
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.