UPDATED with video: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer returned to air Tuesday evening to apologize for having said, hours earlier at his press briefing, that Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people, as had Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I appreciate you having me on. We all make mistakes; you’ve made mistakes,” Spicer told Blitzer, accurately. “We all, hopefully, have a bit of forgiveness in us. And I hope that people who understand know that when I make a mistake I try and own it. And I would ask people for their forgiveness.”
Denouncing Russia for sticking by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the wake of last week’s chemical attack on citizens, Spicer had, earlier in the day, said at his press briefing that someone “as despicable as Adolph Hitler…didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
When a reporter at the briefing had reminded Spicer about Hitler and the Holocaust, he acknowledged Hitler introduced lethal gas “into the Holocaust centers…I understand that,” adding later, “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” while adding “However, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.”
His remarks were so stunning MSNBC added a chyron to the bottom of the screen for the remainder of the press briefing, stating “Hitler gassed millions.”
“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,” Spicer told Blitzer, hours later. “Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate, insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison. For that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
Blitzer wondered who Spicer was apologizing to, asking if his remarks were directed at Holocaust survivors.
“Clearly anybody who, not just suffered in the Holocaust, or is a descendant, but, frankly, anyone who was offended by those comments,” Spicer clarified.
“I was trying to draw a comparison for which there should not have been one. It was insensitive and inappropriate,” Spicer said. “I’m not looking to quantify this in any way. … I should have stayed focused on the Assad regime, and the danger that they have brought to their own people, and the terrible atrocities they did. And to drag any other comparison into this was not appropriate.”
Why make the comparison at all, Blitzer wondered, apparently not listening closely.
“It was a mistake. I should not have done it. I won’t do it again,” Spicer said in short sentences, to clear up Blitzer’s apparent confusion. “It was attempt to do something that should not have been done,” Spicer added for good measure.
“Especially this week, it was not something that was appropriate. It was insensitive,” he added.
Blitzer asked Spicer if he was aware of the Nazi’s concentration camps, and Hitler’s mass murder of Jews as well as gypsies, disabled people, and gay people, during the Holocuast.
“Clearly I’m aware of that,” Spicer said.
Blitzer asked if he could assume President Donald Trump asked him to go on CNN to apologize.
“You can assume I realized I had made a mistake and did not want to be a distraction to the president’s agenda and the action he had taken and I sought out to make sure I clarified that,” Spicer responded.
“I’m glad you did,” Blitzer said simply.