WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologized Tuesday after saying Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II in an effort to shame Russia’s alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his use of chemical weapons.
The comment was immediately decried and after a series of attempts to clear up his words, Spicer apologized in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week, using chemical weapons and gas. Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison,” Spicer said. “And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
Spicer, who said he was “aware” that gas chambers were used during the Holocaust, later said he should have “stayed focused” on Assad and asked people to forgive him for his “mistake.”
“My goal now and then is to stay focused on Assad and I should have,” he said. “I realized that I had made a mistake and I didn’t want to be a distraction to the President’s agenda.”
Spicer, in an effort to shame Russia‘s alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his use of chemical weapons, said Tuesday Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II.
While Hitler did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield, Hitler and the Nazis used gas chambers to exterminate Jews, disabled people and others.
Spicer, asked for a clarification by a reporter about the comments that Hitler did not use chemical weapons, 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.”
Reporters in the briefing room offered the Holocaust as an example of chemical weapons use.
“But in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns and dropped them down to innocent in the middle of towns,” Spicer said, defending his statement.
“I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent,” he said.
The majority of historians believe Nazi Germany did not ever use chemical weapons on the battlefield in the Second World War despite possessing both WWI-era chemical weapons as well as more advanced nerve agents. Hitler himself was exposed to mustard gas during his WWI service, but he did not sign off on chemical weapons use against allied forces even when Germany was suffering battlefield losses.
However, Hitler did of course use chemical gas to murder innocent civilians in concentration camps.