Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dug himself into quite a hole when he made a terrible analogy about dictators Adolf Hitler and Bashar Al Assad.
“You had someone who was as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer told reporters in a failed attempt to highlight how brutal the Assad regime’s most recent chemical attack on Syrians was. “He [Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”
This comment rightfully drew backlash. Indeed, Assad is a brutal dictator whose regime has committed genocidal war crimes on Syrians, but Hitler’s use of gas chambers to commit genocide against millions of Jews, including “his own people,” German Jews, was obviously an abuse of chemical weapons as well.
As Jon Greenberg of Politifact, a fact-checking online publication, noted, “The Nazis’ hydrogen cyanide meets the first condition [of what constitutes a chemical weapon] and the gas chambers would qualify as a ‘device’ in the second.”
But Spicer’s offensive and historically inaccurate comments got worse.
"He [Hitler] brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that,” Spicer continued. “But (not) in the way that Bashar al-Assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down, into the middle of towns.”
Apparently, Spicer thinks it’s OK to whitewash history and call Nazi concentration camps, where millions of Jews died, “Holocaust centers.” He also seems unaware of how Nazis rounded up and isolated Jews in squalid ghettos, stealing their businesses, homes and possessions. (Yet the Trump administration swears it is trying really hard to stay away from anti-Semitic rhetoric.)
Spicer's comments about Hitler and Assad show apalling ignorance.
This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has failed to properly acknowledge the atrocities of the Holocaust and its significance in Jewish history. On Jan. 27, Trump’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement didn’t mention Jews, and his staff repeatedly defended the decision.
“Sean Spicer, as we say at Passover, DAYENU! ENOUGH! You need to quit or be fired. #Antisemitism #NeverAgain,” the center tweeted yesterday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also called for Spicer’s firing, adding that Trump “must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements.”
Spicer scrambled to explain his comments, and shortly after his press briefing he released a statement claiming that 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,” the statement read. “Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
But Spicer’s “clarification” isn’t enough given the Trump administration’s history of contributing to anti-Semitism through the people it places in power, its rhetoric, its inaction and more. It’s worth noting, for example, that even as it criticizes Assad, this administration is working to ban Syrian refugees from entering the United States because they’re from a Muslim-majority country.
We previously wrote that members of the Trump administration need to do more to combat the rise in anti-Semitism in the U.S., and Spicer’s comments show that they have a lot of work ahead of them.