Thu, Apr 13, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Spicer apologizes for ‘insensitive’ Holocaust remarks

NOT HIS VIEWS:Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks has urged people to accept Spicer’s apology as sincere and genuine and to move on

AP, WASHINGTON

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday apologized for making an “inappropriate and insensitive” comparison to the Holocaust in earlier comments about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons — remarks that drew instant rebuke from Jewish groups and critics.

Spicer said in an interview with CNN that he was trying to make a point about al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and gas against his people, but “mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison. And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”

During the daily White House briefing on Tuesday, Spicer told reporters that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

Critics noted the remark ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.

It was the second day in a row in which Spicer, US President Donald Trump’s main spokesman, appeared to struggle to articulate the president’s foreign policy at a critical time.

The White House generated criticism at the start of the year when a statement on international Holocaust Remembrance Day did not make any reference to Jews.

In the CNN interview, Spicer said his comments did not reflect Trump’s views.

“My comments today did not reflect the president’s, were a distraction from him and frankly were misstated, insensitive and wrong,” he said. “Obviously it was my blunder.’

The interview capped several attempts by the White House to clarify Spicer’s statement.

During the briefing, Spicer was asked about his initial statement, but delivered a garbled defense of his remarks in which he tried to differentiate between Hitler’s actions and the gas attack on Syrian civilians last week.

The attack in northern Syria left nearly 90 people dead, and the Turkish minister for health has said tests show sarin gas was used.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no, he [Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people the same way that [al-]Assad is doing,” Spicer said. “There was clearly ... I understand your point, thank you. There was not ... He brought them into the Holocaust center I understand that.”

The comparison to World War II appeared to be part of a message the administration was trying to deliver as it explains its tactics in Syria.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis noted in a separate briefing that “the intent was to stop the cycle of violence into an area that even in World War II chemical weapons were not used on battlefields.”

After the briefing, Spicer e-mailed a statement to reporters: “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.”

US Democrats and Jewish organizations condemned the comments.

US House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that Spicer was “downplaying the horror of the Holocaust” and should be fired.

US Senator Ben Cardin said on Twitter: “Someone get @PressSec a refresher history course on Hitler stat #Icantbelievehereallysaidthat.”

The New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called on Trump to fire Spicer, saying he denied that Hitler gassed Jews during the Holocaust.

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