Spicer apologizes, says comparing Assad to Hitler was ‘insensitive’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologized Tuesday for saying Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons during World War II.
Responding after calls for President Trump to fire him, Mr. Spicer said the comparison he made to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad during his daily press briefing was “insensitive” and “inappropriate.”
“I apologize. It was a mistake to do that,” Mr. Spicer said on CNN.
Mr. Spicer prompted an intense outcry on social media by asserting that not even Hitler resorted to the use of chemical weapons against his own people the way Mr. Assad has done.
Defending the Trump administration’s missile strike on Mr. Assad’s military air base in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians, Mr. Spicer said, “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
Reporters in the White House press room and commenters on Twitter instantly noted that Hitler used chemicals to gas Jews in Nazi death camps during World War II. Mr. Spicer tried to clarify his remark by explaining that he meant to say that Hitler’s security forces never employed chemical weapons on the battlefield.
“He was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing,” he said.
Within minutes, the comments were leading cable news broadcasts and lighting up social media with observations of disbelief and condemnation.
“I hope @PressSec takes time to visit @HolocaustMuseum,” tweeted former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. “It’s a few blocks away.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called on the president to sack his spokesman.
“While Jewish families across America celebrate Passover, the chief spokesman of this White House is downplaying the horror of the Holocaust,” she said. “Sean Spicer must be fired, and the president must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements. Either he is speaking for the president, or the president should have known better than to hire him.”
After the briefing concluded, Mr. Spicer’s office offered yet another clarification of his remarks.
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” the statement said. “However, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers.”