White House press secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly said Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons against his own people during World War II while comparing him to Syrian President Bashar Assad during a press conference on Tuesday.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” he said.
Spicer’s comment and later attempts at clarification caused a stir on social media on Tuesday afternoon. Hitler’s Nazi regime used poisonous gas against Jews, Catholics, homosexuals and the handicapped during the Holocaust.
Read what he said below after being asked about the U.S. response to Assad using chemical weapons in attacks in Syria last week.
Spicer: I think a couple things. You, look — we didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself, is this a country that you and a regime that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed international agreements rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country. To not stand up to not only [inaudible] but your own word should be troubling. Russia put their name on the line. So it’s not a question of how long that alliance has lasted. But at what point do they recognize that they are now getting on the wrong side of history in a really bad way really quickly? And again, look at the countries that are standing with them. Iran, Syria, North Korea. This is not a team that you want to be on. And I think that Russia has to recognize that, while they may have had an alliance with them, the lines that have been crossed are ones that no country should ever want to see another country cross.
Later, Spicer was offered chance to clarify his statement regarding Hitler. Here’s what he said:
Spicer: 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 understand your point. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that. There was not, in the, he brought them 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.
Following the press briefing, Spicer issued further clarification, saying he was not “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,” he said. “Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”