Press Secretary Sean Spicer has put his foot in his mouth once again.
During his daily White House press briefing Tuesday, April 11, Spicer unequivocally declared that Adolf Hitler hadn’t used chemical weapons in World War II, sparking immediate outrage from all corners.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said in his denouncement of Russia for backing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Critics were quick to check the ill-informed White House spokesman, highlighting the Nazi’s use of toxic gas to kill millions of Jews and other groups during the Holocaust.
Last week, Assad’s regime waged a chemical weapons attack that killed scores of Syrian men, women and young children. U.S. forces responded with 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the air base that housed the war planes responsible for the attack.
The press secretary attempted to clarify his statement moments later but only made things worse.
“I think when you come to sarin gas, [Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said.
A reporter in the room shouted for him to again clarify his comments about Hitler’s use of toxic gas in the Holocaust, to which Spicer responded, “He brought them to the Holocaust center, I understand that,” seemingly in reference to the Jewish concentration camps. “What I am saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought — so the use of it.”
While Hitler may not have dropped the gas on a town of innocent people, he definitely utilized chemical weapons in ordering the execution of millions of innocent Jews in gas chambers during WWI.
To make matters worse, Spicer’s ignorant comments came on the first day of Passover, which celebrates the emancipation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.
The White House spokesman issued somewhat of an apology shortly after Tuesday’s press conference but stopped short of addressing the atrocities Hitler had committed.
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” Spicer said in a statement. “I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
His remarks did very little to appease outraged critics, especially those of the Jewish faith.
Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, released a scathing statement asserting that Spicer had “engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death.” He then called on President Trump to fire him.
The U.S. Holocaust Museum tweeted a video from their collection showing what American troops discovered when they liberated the concentration camp in Buchenwald, Germany in April 1945.
— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) April 11, 2017
Notable figures like Chelsea Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were among several who took jabs at the press secretary for his offensive comments.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 11, 2017
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 11, 2017
Comparisons to the Holocaust, the trans Atlantic slave trade, and other atrocities can serve to diminish suffering. And diminish triumph.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 11, 2017
Hey @PressSec, pro tip: Don't ever imply someone is "worse than Hitler."
Especially during Passover.
— jordan (@JordanUhl) April 11, 2017
Sean Spicer said Hitler sent Jews to "Holocaust Centers".
THEY'RE CALLED CONCENTRATION CAMPS, SEAN. HITLER DIDN'T SEND JEWS TO THE YMCA.
— ᴶ ᴬ ᴿ ᴹ (@itsJarm) April 12, 2017
Hours later, Spicer appeared on CNN to issue yet another apology for his misstep.
“I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week, using chemical weapons and gas,” he said. “Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison.”
“And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
— CNN (@CNN) April 12, 2017