In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Spicer apologized for his remarks that drew outrage for overlooking that Hitler used chemical agents to kill millions of Jews in gas chambers.
“Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which frankly there is no comparison,” Spicer said. “And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
Spicer made the controversial comments during a press conference at the White House Tuesday in an attempt to question Russia’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following the chemical weapons attack last week.
“We had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. “So you have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself is this a country that you want to align yourself with?”
When asked to clarify his remarks, Spicer acknowledged that Hitler did use chemical agents, but said there was a difference.
“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, before using the term “Holocaust centers” to refer to Nazi concentration camps.
American Jewish groups were quick to criticize Spicer’s comments, some even calling for him to be fired.
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said he was “astonished” by Spicer’s comments, and that comparisons between Hitler and the Holocaust with other dictators or tragedies are “tricky and not advisable.”
Steven Goldstein, head of The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, called on Spicer to be fired.
“Sean Spicer now lacks the integrity to serve as White House press secretary, and President [Donald] Trump must fire him at once,” Goldstein said.
Similarly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also called on Spicer to step down.
“While Jewish families across America celebrate Passover, the chief spokesman of this White House is downplaying the horror of the Holocaust,” she said in a statement. “Sean Spicer must be fired.”
In Jerusalem, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum also weighed in, expressing “deep concern regarding the inaccurate and insensitive use of terms related to the Holocaust.”
However, Israel’s transportation minister, Yisrael Katz, the son of Holocaust survivors, welcomed Spicer’s apology, saying that “since he apologized and retracted his remarks, as far as I am concerned, the matter is over.”