White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer blundered disastrously through a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. I know what you're thinking: Why is this press briefing different from all other press briefings? Well, in this one, he compared Adolf Hitler favorably to Bashar Al-Assad – and during Passover, no less.
Chag sameach, everybody!
Midway through the briefing, Spicer fielded a question about why the White House believed Putin would consider pulling back his support for President Assad and the Syrian government.
"We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II," Spicer responded, putting on an air of exasperation. "You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons."
Hitler oversaw the genocide of six million Jews, including millions who were killed in gas chambers – many of them refugees who were turned away when they attempted to escape to other countries. Spicer seemed, at least momentarily, to have forgotten those facts Tuesday afternoon.
Things deteriorated even further when a second reporter offered Spicer the chance to clarify his earlier remarks about Hitler. The realization that he had forgotten about Hitler's gas chambers seemed to slowly dawn on him as he answered the question and became progressively less and less coherent. Here's what he said, verbatim:
"I think when you come to sarin gas – there was no, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Ashad [sic] is doing. I mean, there was clearly – I, I understand your point. Thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, in the – he brought 'em into the Holocaust centers. I understand that. But I'm saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought, the use of it – I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent."
Almost immediately after the briefing ended, Spicer blasted out a written statement to reporters, trying once more to clarify the remarks he'd just made. "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."
As if the situation couldn't get worse, the White House followed that up with a correction, changing the words "innocent people" to "population centers." That was followed by a third correction, adding, "Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable."
Minutes after the briefing ended, the Anne Frank Center was calling for Spicer's resignation. "On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death," executive director Steven Goldenstein 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. Sean Spicer now lacks the integrity to serve as White House press secretary, and President Trump must fire him at once."
This isn't the first, or even the second, time the Trump White House has come under fire from Jewish groups. Several officials in its highest echelons have faced accusations of anti-Semitism, including chief strategist Steve Bannon. White House aide Sebastian Gorka has faced scrutiny for his affiliation with Vitezi Rend, a far-right Hungarian group aligned with the Nazis. The White House was notably criticized for failing to mention Jews in its official statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day for the first time this year, and for its slowness to condemn the bomb threats received by more than 100 Jewish Community Centers around the country.