WHAT'S THE STORY
PRESIDENT Trump’s bumbling official spokesman Sean Spicer is facing calls for his resignation after he claimed Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons.
The beleaguered press secretary was explaining the Trump administration’s new found attitude towards Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, telling the assembled journalists: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in the Second World War,” said Spicer.
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“You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
He continued: “So you have to, if you are Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country and a regime that you want to align yourself with?”
Jewish groups, who were celebrating passover, pointed out that actually, when it came to using poisonous gas to kill people, Hitler’s extermination camps were responsible for killing around 11 million people.
Spicer was responding to a question about US missile strikes in Syria, following the use of illegal chemical weapons on Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib, in an attack that killed 89 people, and Russia’s continued support of Assad.
Asked to expand on his comments, he then accepted the Nazis had used chemical agents, and said: “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said, incorrectly, before using the phrase “Holocaust centres”.
Some 160,000 to 180,000 Jews killed by the Nazis were from Germany, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Shortly after the briefing, Spicer put out a statement attempting to clarify his comments, saying 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 centres,” he said. “Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
By Tuesday evening, Spicer was on CNN, offering a full and complete apology: “I was trying to draw a comparison for which there shouldn’t have been one,” he said.
Unfortunately during that interview Spicer misspoke and claimed President Trump was trying to “destabilise” the region.
WHO IS SEAN SPICER?
DAILY Show presenter Trevor Noah once compared Spicer to ineffective bad air freshener in a very smelly bathroom.
“Trump bulls***s, and [Spicer’s] the guy who’s agreed to go out every day with the air freshener,” Noah said. “And, by the way, not good air freshener. You know that air freshener that just makes things worse? Like when you walk in and now you smell the s**t and the air freshener? You’re like, ‘I think someone took a s**t on some old lemons.’”
You might not think it, but Spicer is an experienced professional who has been operating at high levels in right-wing American politics for decades.
When Trump was inaugurated in January, Spicer became the half-Scottish tycoon’s press secretary and communications director.
The New Yorker of Irish descent has spent his life working on political campaigns, and for a number of high-profile congressmen.
There was a brief stint working as a partner at Endeavor Global Strategies, a public relations firm that represents foreign governments and corporations.
But he was communications director of the Republican National Committee, from 2011 to 2017, and its chief strategist, from 2015 to 2017.
In this job he wasn’t always supportive of Trump, issuing press notices distancing the Republicans from the businessman’s attacks on Mexicans and John McCain.
THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME HE'S MESSED UP?
SPICER, memorably and mercilessly satirised by Ghostbusters and Bridesmaid actress Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live, has often found himself becoming the story, a big no-no in the world of political spokespeople.
It was Spicer who attacked the press for saying the crowd at Trump’s inauguration hadn’t been that big. He falsely claimed that the ceremony had drawn the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period – both in person and around the globe”.
This was despite all the evidence proving otherwise.
Later, Spicer defended his previous statements by saying “sometimes we can disagree with the facts”.
SPICER'S comments have left Jewish leaders reeling. It’s only been three months since the White House issued a statement to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and forgot to mention anything to do with Judaism.
They point out that some of Trump’s staff don’t have the best record when it comes to the Jewish people, notably chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, and Seb Gorka, a White House foreign policy official, who has been tied to the Hungarian group Vitez Rand, which allegedly has historical links to Nazi Germany.
Steven Goldstein, the Ann Frank Centre’s executive director, said: “On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death,” he said in a statement.
“Spicer’s statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary.”
He added: “President Trump must fire him at once.”