There is a person in my extended family who always seems to put her foot in it by raising inappropriate topics. There have been a number of occasions where she has caused other relatives to cry, or generally created drama unnecessarily. (Such as outing a gay relative in front of the family, that type of thing). She is a friendly, generous person who adores her family and 90% of the time is pleasant company. But every time we see her there is always some incident that goes too far - she either doesn't know when to shut up, or enjoys creating drama. I should add that we very rarely see this relative. The most recent occasion was the first time in 2 years! However, I would still like to know how to handle her on the occasions that do arise.
The most recent occasion a group of relatives were having dinner together. We were naturally chatting about the family in general - quite normal for a family get together in my experience! It was a thoroughly pleasant evening, until right near the end where she suddenly took things one step to far and brought up something very negative about one of our deceased relatives. My first reaction was to simply ignore it, but unfortunately that plunged the entire table into an incredibly awkward silence as nobody knew how to respond. I realised that DH and most of the others present had *no* idea of the incident she was referring to and were sort of at a loss, so it was up to me to get us through it. I went with a lame kind of "Yes of course I've heard the stories, but who knows what really happened" and tried to beandip. I would have feigned ignorance and beandipped but I was afraid that would just encourage her to "enlighten" me by elaborating further. So I felt I needed to address it but shut her down. (I *do* know what she was referring to, but the main people involved are dead and it's a situation that was all hearsay based and unsubstantiated, plus a topic that is guaranteed to make people feel uncomfortable so really inconsiderate to bring it up - not appropriate dinner party conversation!!) She tried one more tack along the lines of "Well my Dad also says XYZ!" and I somehow awkwardly changed the topic. We managed to get some more normal small talk in before leaving - I really didn't want to jump up and leave immediately as that would have ended the evening on a sour note and been unfair to our hosts. I should add that her behaviour is obvious enough that after we left I said to DH "So, I see Clare is still Clare" and he responded "Yep, she just always has to take it that 1 step too far!" So while it's a small, minor part of each occasion it does happen everytime and is incredibly obvious to us.
So, how does one respond when a relative suddenly says "And of course, Grandpa was a pedophile!" during dinner? I would like a cool line that smoothly and politely conveys that a topic is inappropriate and segways into something else without creating a confrontation or drama. I don't want to feed the drama llama, but I want to avoid her ruining the occasion or dragging us down to her level.