In the White House’s ongoing efforts to frame last week’s U.S. airstrike on a Syrian government facility, Press Secretary Sean Spicer stepped on a proverbial landmine: the Holocaust.
Speaking with reporters at Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Spicer justified President Donald Trump‘s decision to drop 59 bombs on a Syrian airbase after the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, launched a chemical weapons attack on his own people, which killed 80 including young children.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Spicer said. “We had someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did, of course, use chemical weapons by murdering millions of Jews with poison gas.
Spicer on Syria: “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons…” pic.twitter.com/UN3JfRRg0w
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 11, 2017
Asked to clarify his comment, Spicer elaborated:
“I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Ashad [sic] is doing, there was not in the—he brought them into the Holocaust center… but I’m saying in that the way that 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,” Spicer said.
Spicer’s spin, which some took to imply that Jews were not “real” Germans, only left more onlookers aghast.
WATCH: Given an opportunity to clean up his "even Hitler" comment. Spicer says: Hitler didn't use them in the same way Assad did.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) April 11, 2017
President Donald Trump decided to launch the first intentional U.S. military attack on the Syrian government after his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump expressed outrage at Assad’s use of chemical weapons, according to his son, Eric Trump.
Moments after Spicer’s comments began to bounce around the web, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tweeted the following video:
— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) April 11, 2017
Even the dictionary got in on the action.
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) April 11, 2017
Spicer finally added a second clarification to his comments, saying he did not intend to “lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust.”
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” Spicer said. “However, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
Update 10am CT, April 12: Following widespread backlash over his comments, Spicer on Tuesday apologized for his remarks during an interview with CNN host Wolf Blitzer.
“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. “And for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”