White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the bizarre claim on Tuesday that unlike Syrian President Bashar Assad, Adolf Hitler never stooped to the level of using chemical weapons.
The claim was immediately rebuffed on Twitter, where many users erupted in outrage.
When asked whether Spicer thought there was any reason to think Russia would pull back its support of Syria, its decades-long ally, Spicer seemed to muddle some facts regarding World War II history.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” he said. “You had someone as despicable as Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. If you’re Russia, you have to ask yourself if this is a country and regime that you want to align yourself with.”
But the World War II-era German dictator famously did use chemical weapons in gas chambers to exterminate millions of Jewish people, LGBTQ people, and others in Eastern Europe.
Moments later, Spicer was asked to clarify his comments on Hitler. “When it comes to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said.
“In the way that Assad used them where he went into towns and dropped him down on innocents in the middle of town was not the same. I appreciate the clarification — that was not the intent,” Spicer said, presumably referring to the implication that Hitler did not use chemical weapons.
In his clarification, Spicer also referred to Hitler bringing people into “Holocaust Centres,” apparently referring to gas chambers.
“Sean Spicer” and “Holocaust Centres” were trending on Twitter following the press conference. Here are some of the reactions:
Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people,” says Sean Spicer, writing German Jews out of history.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) April 11, 2017
What difference does it make if Hitler used gas chambers or planes to poison people? I don’t understand Spicer’s second clarification here. https://t.co/KgftD8e4ZQ
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 11, 2017
Honestly, “holocaust centres” is weirder than anything else he said.
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) April 11, 2017
To recap: Sean Spicer, given a chance to remedy his Hitler comment, says Hitler didn’t use gas on his own people like Assad did. pic.twitter.com/VIKm1KvXW5
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) April 11, 2017
This is the day Sean Spicer became Press Secretary.
— Scott Conroy (@ScottFConroy) April 11, 2017
chyron operator, Tuesday 9 AM: I’ve had some bad days in this job but I’ve never had to write “(Hitler Gassed Millions)” on screen
This doesn’t really answer the question as to why doing it from a plane is worse than building gas chambers in death camps, of course.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) April 11, 2017
After the conference, Spicer offered additional clarification, telling an NBC reporter, “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 aeroplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.”
That statement was subsequently amended, changing “innocent people” to “population centres.”