While talking about chemical weapon attack in Syria, White House press secretary said Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people
‘You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,’ Spicer said (AFP)
Wednesday 12 April 2017
Prominent Jewish groups demanded the resignation of the White House press secretary Sean Spicer after he appeared to engage in an act of Holocaust denial, by suggesting Hitler did not use gas against his own people.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said during a White House press briefing.
He later apologised for the remarks.
Spicer’s comments, over the Jewish Passover holiday, will particularly embarrass US president Donald Trump, whose son-in-law is an Orthodox Jew and has been engaged as Trump’s personal Middle East emissary.
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, a nationwide organisation that seeks to “address civil and human rights across America,” published a statement on Facebook urging Spicer’s resignation.
“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 executive director Steven Goldstein in a statement.
And Congressman David Cicilline, a Jewish Democrat from Rhode Island, similarly said that “Donald Trump’s White House does not get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to anti-Semitism”.
“Steve Bannon made his name running a website that trafficked in anti-Semitism and racism. Seb Gorka (a member of President Trump’s national security advisory staff) has a history of working with anti-Semitic groups and individuals. And today, Sean Spicer made despicable, ignorant remarks about the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler. Enough is enough,” said Cicilline in a statement.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, accused Spicer of “downplaying the horror of the Holocaust”.
“Sean Spicer must be fired, and the president must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements. Either he is speaking for the president, or the president should have known better than to hire him,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Jeremy Ben Ami, president of liberal Jewish American group J Street, denounced Spicer in a series of tweets, calling his comments unforgivable.
Today’s @PressSec statements on Holocaust unforgivable. WH must address its issues recognizing Jewish suffering at Hitler’s hands in WWII.
In another apparent gaffe, Spicer issued an apology while talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN, saying that his remarks should not be “a distraction from the president’s decisive action in Syria and the attempts he’s making to destabilise the region”.
Spicer’s comments brought looks of astonishment from the assembled White House press corps, who offered Spicer a chance to clarify.
“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 [Syrian president Bashar] Assad is doing,” Spicer said, returning to the subject.
As journalists shouted “What about the Holocaust?” Spicer continued, “I think there is clearly… I understand the point, thank you, thank you I appreciate that.”
Hitler “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, to innocent – into the middle of towns, it was brought… so the use of it, I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent.”
In a further written clarification, Spicer said he was “in no way… 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 centres. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable,” he said.
It was not the first time this week that Spicer has found himself in rhetorical difficulty over Syria.
On Monday, he suggested that Trump could take military action if the Syrian government were to drop more barrel bombs – a regular occurrence in Syria’s brutal war and a red line that would spell almost certain US military action.
The White House privately walked back his comments.
Later in Tuesday’s briefing, Spicer also declared Iran a failed state.
Posted by Thavam