White House press secretary Sean Spicer is facing immense criticism after saying Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons”.
Spicer made the comments as he attempted to discuss the horror of the chemical weapons attack last week in Syria, which the Donald Trump administration is blaming on President Bashar Assad.
Here’s everything you should know, as Spicer’s comments reverberate through the Jewish community.
What exactly did Spicer say?
He said: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War Two,” and added that “someone as despicable as Hitler… didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
The comment is at odds with Hitler’s extermination of Jews during the Holocaust using gas chambers.
According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis experimented with poison gas in late 1939 with the killing of mental patients, which was termed “euthanasia.”
Spicer’s comments came on the second day of Passover and a day after the White House held a Seder dinner marking the emancipation of the Jewish people, a tradition started during the Obama administration.
Has Spicer tried to defend what he said?
Spicer, challenged by reporter, concedes Hitler killed w/chemicals but says "not in same way" as Assad and "I appreciate the clarification"
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) April 11, 2017
Minutes later, he tried to differentiate between Hitler’s actions and the gas attack on Syrian civilians last week – the attack in northern Syria left nearly 90 people dead, and Turkey’s health minister said test show sarin gas was used.
“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no, he (Hitler) was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said. “There was clearly….I understand your point, thank you. There was not…He brought them into the Holocaust centre I understand that.”
“I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent,” he said.
Have we heard any more from Spicer since?
After the briefing, Spicer emailed a statement to reporters. In it, he said: “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.”
What has been the reaction to his comments so far?
— AnneFrankCenter(US) (@AnneFrankCenter) April 11, 2017
The New York-based Anne Frank Centre For Mutual Respect called on Trump to fire Spicer.
Steven Goldstein, the centre’s executive director, said in a statement that “on Passover no less,” Spicer had “engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death”.
He added: “Spicer’s statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary.”
Many other people, including some Jewish Democrats, have taken to Twitter to share their shock and outrage.
— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) April 11, 2017
I find nothing funny about the Press Secretary bungling holocaust history. Because I'm not sure they should get the benefit of the doubt.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 11, 2017
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 11, 2017
Anything else we should know regarding remarks Spicer has made recently?
This was the second day in a row in which the White House Press Secretary appeared to have trouble articulating the president’s foreign policy at a critical time.
On Monday, the White House was forced to walk back remarks Spicer made from the podium that the use of barrel bombs by Assad’s government might lead to further military action by the United States.
In an exchange with reporters, Spicer appeared to draw a new red line for the Trump administration when he told reporters that if a country gases a baby or it puts “a barrel bomb into innocent people, I think you will see a response from this president.”
Until Monday the administration had maintained that last week’s airstrikes were in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens. A White House spokesman said later that “nothing has changed in our posture” and the president retains the option to act if it’s in the national interest.