The Dallas Morning News
WHITE HOUSE spokesman apologizes for Hitler remarks.
He apologizes for chemical arms remark, likening him to Assad
WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologized Tuesday after a storm of criticism followed remarks in which he attempted to compare Syria’s Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler by saying that even the Nazi leader didn’t “sink to using chemical weapons.”
“It was a mistake; I shouldn’t have done it,” Spicer said on CNN, acknowledging that host Wolf Blitzer’s characterization of his remarks as a “blunder” was accurate. “My goal now and then is to stay focused on Assad, and I should have, and I’ll make sure to stay in my lane when I talk about that.”
During his briefing for reporters earlier in the day, Spicer was asked how the U.S. might persuade Russia to stop supporting Assad’s government. He responded, in part: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. We had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
Spicer’s statement ignored the horror of the Holocaust, in which gas chambers were used as part of a genocide campaign that killed 6 million Jews as well as millions of others, including Gypsies and gay people.
As his remarks ricocheted across social media — on the Jewish Passover holiday — President Donald Trump’s chief spokesman was given the chance to elaborate. He only deepened the controversy.
“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said. When reporters interrupted to note the millions of deaths in concentration camps, where many of the victims were Germans, Spicer tried to draw a distinction between those cases and battlefield use of chemical weapons.
“He brought them into the Holocaust centers, and I understand that,” he said, apparently referring to death camps.
The remarks elicited outrage on social media and correctives from scholars of the Holocaust.
“Historically, it’s just wrong,” said Deborah Lipstadt, a leading historian of the Holocaust and a professor at Emory University in Atlanta.
Spicer “should not be making comparisons,” she said. “It’s, at the best, not thought out, and at the worst, shows a latent anti-Semitism.”
After the briefing, Spicer emailed a statement seeking to clarify his remarks.
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” Spicer wrote. “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.”
By Monday evening, Spicer was apologizing on CNN. He called his remarks a “mistake,” a “blunder” and an “insensitive and inappropriate reference.”