The statement immediately drew fire from Democrats, Jewish groups and Holocaust memorial institutions, who expressed dismay that Spicer would downplay Hitler’s actions by comparing them to the gas attacks allegedly ordered up by Syrian president Bashar Assad and by appearing to refer to concentration camps as a “Holocaust center.”
“I mistakenly used an inappropriate, insensitive reference to the Holocaust,” Spicer told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday evening. “I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
He also apologized for not staying focused and for not helping President Donald Trump’s messaging. “I didn’t want to be a distraction to the president’s agenda,” Spicer said.
The mea culpa came after Spicer had stoked a firestorm with his comments.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Spicer told reporters at the afternoon’s press briefing, as he criticized the Russian government for its support of Assad. “Someone who is despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. You have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself, is this a country that you, and a regime that you want to align yourself with?”