- Trump’s spokesman Spicer has stirred a controversy with a Holocaust comment when trying to compare Syrian leader Assad to Hitler.
- Spicer said even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons, forgetting that millions of people were gassed to death in Nazi death camps.
- He referred to Nazi concentration camps as “Holocaust centers”.
- Spicer has tried to explain what he meant several times, and apologized on live TV.
- He was heavily criticized by museums dedicated to honoring the memory of the Holocaust victims, and there have been calls for his resignation.
The Press Secretary of the administration of US President Donald Trump, Sean Spicer, has tangled himself in a series of explanations after he made an inappropriate Holocaust reference when trying to draw a comparison between current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and World War II Nazi leader Adolf Hitler over the April 4 chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun.
Some 100 civilians, including many children, were killed when Syrian regime aircraft dropped sarin gas on the rebel-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province last week.
Assad’s ally Russia has denied the regime’s involvement but last Friday US President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on the Syrian government as a punitive measure over the use of chemical weapons.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s government announced test results from samples taken from victims of the Khan Sheikhoun attack that chemical weapons, namely, sarin gas, had been used, and warned Assad might employ chemical weapons of mass destruction again.
‘The Holocaust Center’
White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s inappropriate reference to the Holocaust came on Tuesday as he was warning Russia that its alliance with Syria was putting it “on the wrong side of history, in a really bad way, really quickly.”
“So you have to if you’re Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country,” Spicer declared.
His warning came out of hand, however, when he decided to compare Assad to Hitler.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said, as cited by the NPR, overlooking the millions who were gassed to death in Nazi concentration camps.
When asked by a reporter to clarify his comment, Trump’s Press Secretary got tangled further in his explanation.
“He was not using the gas on his own people the same way that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is doing,” Spicer said.
“He brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. But I’m saying in the way Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent — into the middle of towns. It was brought — the use of it, I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent,” he uttered.
Spicer issued a statement later on Tuesday afternoon, trying to make amends.
“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,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, Spicer appeared on CNN to apologize, seeking to put an end to the controversy he had stirred.
“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,” Spicer concluded.
Sean Spicer’s Holocaust reference with respect to Syrian President Assad and the April 4 chemical attack in the Idlib province is not the first time when he and the Trump Administration got tangled in a controversy on the topic.
In January, the White House released a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, that made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.
Back then White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the omission was done on purpose because the White House staff is an “incredibly inclusive group, and we took into account all of those who suffered.”
Spicer’s inappropriate Holocaust reference was made on Passover, one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays.
The Holocaust Museum in Washington reacted to Spicer’s comments on Twitter by showing footage of what American forces found when they liberated the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald.
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect went further, calling on President Trump to fire Spicer.
“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death,” said the center’s executive director, Steven Goldstein, as cited by the NPR.
“Spicer’s statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary,” he added.