White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday again tried to apologize for his comment that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons during World War II, calling it an “inexcusable and reprehensible” mistake.
“I let the president down,” the White House spokesperson said, adding that his comments distracted from “an unbelievable couple of weeks” for US President Donald Trump.
“This was mine to own, mine to apologize for,” said Spicer who has been lambasted for his comments and several failed attempts to clarify his remarks that just got him into even further trouble.
Speaking at a forum at the Newseum in Washington, DC, Spicer also appeared to apologize for making the remarks during both the Jewish holiday of Passover and Holy Week before Easter.
“It is a very holy week for both the Jewish people and the Christian people and this is not [just] to make a gaffe, a mistake like this is inexcusable and reprehensible,” he said.
“And so of all weeks, this compounds that kind of mistake.”
Spicer also said that it was inappropriate of him to draw a comparison between Hitler and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“I should not have tried to make a comparison. There is no comparing atrocities and it is a very solemn time for so many folks,” he said.
“I got into a topic that I shouldn’t have and I screwed up.”
“On both a personal level and a professional level that will go down as not a very good day in my history,” he added.
During the daily press briefing at the White House on Tuesday, Spicer stunned the Washington press corps by incorrectly telling reporters that Hitler did not use chemical weapons during World War II.
His words were an attempt to amplify the magnitude of assessments that Assad used sarin gas in an assault last week on Khan Sheikhoun, a town in Syria’s Idlib province.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Spicer said. “You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
Prompted to explain his initial comments, Spicer then issued a number of clarifications, saying he knew millions of Jews and other victims of the Nazis were killed in what he called “Holocaust centers” in Nazi-occupied Europe, many in gas chambers, but that “when it comes to sarin gas, [Hitler] was not using the gas on his people the same way that Ashad [sic] is doing.”
In a subsequent statement to reporters meant to clarify his remarks once again, he said, “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.”
Spicer’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from both US Jewish groups and politicians, including calls for his resignation from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
Also on Wednesday, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum said that Spicer’s comments “strengthen the hands of those whose goal is to distort history.”
“His statements imply a profound lack of knowledge of events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust,” the Jerusalem-based memorial center said, while also expressing its “deep concern regarding the inaccurate and insensitive use of terms related to the Holocaust by the White House Press Secretary.”