UPDATED with Sean Spicer statement: White House press secretary Sean Spicer created a major headline at this afternoon’s press briefing when he denounced Russia for sticking by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the wake of recent chemical attack on citizens, saying someone “as despicable as Adolph Hitler…didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
Hitler, and the Nazis, having used gas chambers to murder millions of Jews and others they wanted to exterminate, one reporter in the hall eventually asked Spicer to clarify what he was smoking – or words to that effect.
Spicer made it worse: “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.”
Yes, Spicer was reminded by the room of the Holocaust and use of chemical weapons.
Spicer 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,” Spicer said. “However, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.”
“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, chewing what was left of his foot in defense of his initial remark.
Seeming to sense how much worse he had made things, Spicer added, “I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent.”
About half an hour after the press briefing broke up, Spicer took another stab at damage control, issuing a statement saying: “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. 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.”
Major news outlets covering the remarkable moment, went out of their way to note that most historians believe Nazi Germany did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield, during WWII.
CNN, for instance, noted Hitler himself had been 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.”
MSNBC, meanwhile, handled the situation with a chyron at the bottom of the screen during Spicer’s press briefing, stating “Hitler gassed millions”:
U.S. officials say Assad used sarin in recent strikes on the Syrian people. President Donald Trump cited the horror of the video of dying babies in saying Assad had crossed multiple lines, shortly before the the U.S. military launched missile strikes on a Syrian airfield in retaliation.