White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested at a Tuesday press briefing, in an attempt to shame Russia’s alliance with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II — and quickly faced backlash for the statement.
When a reporter later asked Spicer to clarify, he said, “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.”
“In the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns and dropped them down to innocent in the middle of towns,” he went on. “I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent.”
While Hitler did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield, he did use gas chambers to kill innocent civilians during the Holocaust, as many pointed out on Tuesday.
In a statement later on Tuesday, Spicer, again, tried to walk back his comment. “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” he said in the statement. “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.”
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in WWII,” Spicer first said. “We had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
The backlash on social media was swift, and included a jab from even Chelsea Clinton. She tweeted, “I hope @PressSec takes time to visit @HolocaustMuseum. It’s a few blocks away.”
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called for President Donald Trump to fire Spicer for the comment, saying 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.”
Barbra Streisand also called for him to be fired.
Watch a clip of the press briefing below.