WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prominent Republican Sarah Palin on Wednesday accused critics of "blood libel" by blaming her rhetoric for contributing to the shooting rampage in Tucson that killed six and wounded 14, including Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

"Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them," the conservative Tea Party favorite and former Alaska governor said in her first major response to critics.

"Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."

Palin, the Republican Party's 2008 vice presidential nominee, posted her remarks to her Facebook page in both a video and text.

Suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner faces five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords, who was in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head after being shot at a constituent outreach event at a Tucson, Arizona, shopping mall.

Some commentators and bloggers questioned whether last year's election rhetoric from conservative Republicans including Palin and some Tea Party candidates created a climate that bred violence.

Politicians from both parties have urged a softening of the often bitter political tone.

Authorities have not cited a motive in the shootings.

Palin urged conservatives to "reload," not retreat, after a fierce debate over President Barack Obama's plans to overhaul the healthcare system. She also published an electoral map identifying vulnerable Democratic congressional districts, including Giffords', with rifle cross-hairs.

Palin said blame should rest "not with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election."

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Vicki Allen)