Spicer apologizes for ‘insensitive’ reference to Holocaust
WASHINGTONWhite House Press Secretary Sean Spicer apologized April 12 for making an “inappropriate and insensitive” comparison to the Holocaust in earlier comments about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons - remarks that drew instant rebuke from Jewish groups and critics.
Spicer said in an interview with CNN that he was trying to make a point about al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and gas against his people but “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.”
During the daily White House briefing, Spicer told reporters that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Critics noted the remark ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.
It was the second day in a row in which Spicer, U.S. President Donald Trump’s main spokesman, appeared to struggle to articulate the president’s foreign policy at a critical time. The White House generated criticism at the start of the year when a statement on international Holocaust Remembrance Day did not make any reference to Jews.
In the CNN interview, Spicer said his comments did not reflect Trump’s views. “My comments today did not reflect the president’s, were a distraction from him and frankly were misstated, insensitive and wrong.” He added, “Obviously it was my blunder.”
Later in the day, Spicer said he had let down Trump with his “inexcusable and reprehensible.”
“I made a mistake. There’s no other way to say it. I got into a topic that I shouldn’t have and I screwed up,” Spicer said during an event at a museum in Washington. “On both a personal level and a professional level that will definitely go down as not a very good day in my history,” he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said contemporary comparisons with Nazi atrocities were generally ill-advised.
“Any comparison of current situations with the crimes of National Socialism leads to nothing good,” spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters when asked about Spicer’s remarks.
After the briefing, Spicer emailed a statement to reporters: “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. 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.”
Democrats and Jewish organizations condemned the comments.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement that Spicer was “downplaying the horror of the Holocaust” and should be fired. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said on Twitter, “Someone get @PressSec a refresher history course on Hitler stat (hashtag)#Icantbelievehereallysaidthat.”
The New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called on Trump to fire Spicer, saying he denied that Hitler gassed Jews during the Holocaust.