Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump's White House press secretary, came under fire on Tuesday after suggesting that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons, and apparently referring to Nazi death camps as "Holocaust centres".
Mr Spicer made his remarks while suggesting that Syria's Bashar al-Assad had sunk lower than Hitler by using sarin gas in last weeks attack in Idlib, which killed more than 80 people including children, and attacking Russia for continuing to back Assad.
Sean Spicer: Hitler didn't even use chemical weapons pic.twitter.com/1agMP1en8j— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) April 11, 2017
The press secretary said: "We didn't use chemical weapons in World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't descend to using chemical weapons.
"So the question is if you're Russia ask yourself is this a country, is this a regime you want to align yourself with. You have signed on to international agreements. At what point do they realise they are getting on the wrong side of history in a really bad way? This is not a team you want to be on."
Hitler did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield, but he used gas chambers while murdering six million Jews.
Mr Spicer was asked for a clarification of his comments moments later at his daily press briefing at the White House.
He then said: "I think when it comes to sarin gas he (Hitler) was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.
"There was clearly not...he (Hitler) brought them into the Holocaust centre and I understand that. What I'm saying is Assad used them where he went into towns and dropped them down into the middle of towns...the use of it, I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent."
The comment came during the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Following his briefing Mr Spicer later sought to further clarify his comments.
In a statement he said: "In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust.
"However, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.
"Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable."
The US-based Anne Frank center for Mutual Respect called on Mr Trump to fire Mr Spicer and he was widely criticised on social media.
A grim-faced Mr Spicer later appeared on CNN and formally apologised for what he called an "inappropriate, insensitive reference to the Holocaust".
He called his own comments "misstated and wrong" and said they "did not reflect the president".
Mr Spicer apologised to "anybody who not just suffered in the Holocaust, or anybody who is a descendant of anybody, but anyone who was offended".
He added: "When you make a mistake you own it and ask people for their forgiveness.
"It was a mistake. I shouldn't have done it. I won't do it again. There really is no explaining it."
Asked if he knew that millions of Jews died in gas chambers like those at Auschwitz he said: "Yes, clearly I am aware of that. There's no attempt to clarify this. I should have stayed on topic. It was my blunder."