The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, expressed contrition on national television on Tuesday after he was widely condemned for claiming that Adolf Hitler, who gassed millions of Jews during the Holocaust, did not use chemical weapons.
Comparing the Nazi leader with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Spicer told journalists during his regular press briefing at the White House: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in the Second World War. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
Asked to clarify the remarks, he added: “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”
A reporter in the room shouted that Jews had been targeted. Stuttering and gesticulating, Spicer stumbled on: “Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the – he brought them into the Holocaust centres – I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down into the middle of towns.
“So, the use of it, I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent.”
Spicer attempted once again to explain himself in an early evening appearance on CNN, and issued an apology.
“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. Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison,” Spicer said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer. “And for that I apologise. It was a mistake to do that.”
More than 6 million Jews were murdered, along with large numbers of Gypsies, gay people, political dissidents and others, during the Holocaust. Many were killed in gas chambers with chemical gas agents such as Zyklon B. It is unclear if Spicer’s reference to “Holocaust centres” was to the gas chambers or to concentration camps or something else.
A chemical weapons attack on April 4 in northern Syria left nearly 90 people dead, and the US has blamed Assad. Turkey’s health minister said on Tuesday that test results confirmed sarin gas was used.Thursday, April 13, 2017