WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump’s spokesman apologised Tuesday evening after causing a firestorm in Jewish circle for saying that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” against his own people like Syria’s Assad.
Spokesman Sean Spicer, speaking from the White House podium at the daily press briefing, said that Hitler, whom he called “despicable,” did not use “the gas on his own people the same way Assad used them.” Thrown on the defensive, he sought to clarify his remarks in three separate follow-up statements - which did little to help - and then provided a full-blown apology. “To draw any kind of comparison to the Holocaust was inappropriate and insensitive,” he said.
He later continued, referring to the Jewish holiday of Passover, “I’m absolutely sorry, especially during a week like this to make a comparison that is inappropriate and inexcusable.”
But that was well after the outrage on social media was already in motion, with reporters and public figures blasting Spicer’s comments - and saying they were particularly offensive to Jewish people, especially during Passover.
Overnight, Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called Spicer’s comments “grave and outrageous.”
“There is a moral obligation that precedes policy. We must demand that he apologise or resign,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Katz told Israel Army Radio that Spicer’s apology had been acceptable, and “it was good that [it] was very clear.”
At the briefing, Spicer pointed out that Assad dropped chemical weapons in the “middle of towns.”
US officials said the Assad regime used Sarin in strikes on the Syrian people in a deadly attack last week that prompted US military strikes in retaliation.
Nazis murdered Jews in gas chambers during the Holocaust by the millions with the use of chemical gas agents like Zyklon B, Jewish groups asserted.
A few hours later, a subdued Spicer appeared on CNN and apologised for comparing the Syrian leader with Hitler.
“Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive comment about the Holocaust and there is no comparison,” he stated. “For that I apologise. It was a mistake to do that,” he added.
Spokesman Spicer’s apology quite clearly seems to be directed at appeasing his Jewish critics rather than at correcting his unsubstantiated allegations against President Assad, who has been facing a US-led proxy war against his government since 2011.
In recent months, the Syrian army, backed by the Russian air power, has been making major gains against foreign-sponsored terrorist groups, recapturing several strategic areas from their grip, particularly in the strategic northern province of Aleppo.
Two US Navy destroyers fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province in western Syria on April 7.
President Trump said he had ordered the strike in response to the April 4 chemical attack in the Arab country that he blamed on the Syrian government.
The US military claimed the airfield targeted was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian aircraft notwithstanding that Damascus volunteered to destroy its chemical stockpile in 2014 following an agreement which was brokered by the US and Russia.