WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — President Trump's spokesman backtracked Tuesday on comments likening Bashar Assad to Holocaust architect Adolf Hitler.
"We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You had a — someone who is as despicable as Hitler who didn't even use chemical weapons," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. "You have to, if you're Russia, ask yourself, is this a country and regime you want to align yourself with?"
Later asked to explain, Spicer said he meant to say that Hitler had not used chemical weapons in battlefield situations as Assad did last week.
"I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing, there was not in the — he brought them into the Holocaust center," he said. "But I'm saying that in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down into innocent — into the middle of towns."
Spicer clarified a second time in a statement: "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.
Millions of people died during the Holocaust, with gas chambers being one of the primary ways of killing the victims.
Shortly after Spicer's comments, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum sent out footage of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called for Trump to fire Spicer, saying that he was engaging in Holocaust denial.
"On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death," Steven Goldstein, the center's executive director, said in a statement. "Spicer's statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary."
Spicer's comments spurred much outrage online, especially given that it is Passover.
The President's Press Secretary just minimized Hitler's crimes against humanity during Passover.— Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) April 11, 2017
In about a ten-minute span, Sean Spicer managed to: pic.twitter.com/01GC6Gw2AN— Nicole Hemmer (@pastpunditry) April 11, 2017
Comparisons to the Holocaust, the trans Atlantic slave trade, and other atrocities can serve to diminish suffering. And diminish triumph.— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 11, 2017
Seriously, did Sean Spicer just #NotAllGenocidalManiacs Hitler?— (((Jeff Tiedrich))) (@jefftiedrich) April 11, 2017
Somebody please invite this man to a Seder and teach him some history. https://t.co/YKoKcAKLpC— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) April 11, 2017
Sean. Please. Stop talking. Back away from the podium. Walk out of the briefing room. Think hard about returning. https://t.co/yPVTBrCwAw— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) April 11, 2017
I was unsure how @seanspicer could sink lower. Pretending that Hitler's war machine didn't use chemical weapons? I dared not imagine that.— ⛈⑨ (@KirinDave) April 11, 2017
On Passover, a holiday about Jews escaping oppression, @seanspicer defended Hitler as never having used chemical weapons.— Justin #BLM 🔗 (@JustinAion) April 11, 2017
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