White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer apologized Tuesday after earlier telling reporters that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons during the Second World War when addressing concerns over Russia’s links to Syria.
During Spicer’s daily press briefing, the press secretary compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Hitler, suggesting the Nazi leader didn’t “sink to using chemical weapons.”
WATCH: Spicer says he ‘let the president down’ with Hitler comments
“We didn’t use chemical weapons during World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said.
“If you’re Russia, ask yourself is this a country and a regime that you want to align yourself with?”
WATCH: Holocaust Remembrance Centre condemns Sean Spicer’s remarks
Spicer appeared on NBC later in the day Tuesday to apologize for his gaffe.
“I’m well aware of what he did. But again it was a distinction that didn’t need to get mad,” Spicer said. “They’ve both done horrendous, heinous things to innocent people. To make any kind of comparison is really regrettable and a mistake.
“I’m absolutely sorry, especially during a week like this to make a comparison that is inappropriate and inexcusable.”
Spicer’s comments come as Jewish people around the world celebrate Passover, one of the religion’s most important holidays.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued an ultimatum to Russia on Tuesday telling the country to choose between siding with the U.S. and its allies or embrace Iran and Assad.
Spicer quickly came under fire on social media for his Hitler comments.
Spicer later tried to clarify his statement by differentiating between Hitler’s vast network of concentration camps (which he mistakenly referred to as “Holocaust centers”) and Assad’s gas attack.
“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 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.”
He added that it was not his intent to say Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons. Hitler and his Nazi regime used gas chambers during the war to kill millions of people including Jews, homosexuals and people with disabilities.
Shortly after his daily press briefing ended, Spicer attempted to further clarify his comments in a brief statement.
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust, however, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people,” Spicer said.
But that statement was quickly followed by revised statements which first changed “innocent people” to “population centers” and then added a line denouncing any attack on innocent people.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s health minister said Tuesday that test results confirm sarin gas was used in an attack on a northern Syrian town earlier this month. Nearly 90 people died, many of them children, during the April 4 attack in northern Syria.
–With files from the Associated Press
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