White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologised for his “insensitive” remarks in which he seemed to favourably compare Adolf Hitler’s actions during the Holocaust to atrocities carried out now by strongman Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
During the daily White House briefing, Spicer sought to intensify criticism of Assad, painting the Syrian leader’s suspected use of sarin nerve agent against civilians last week as historically evil.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” the spokesperson said during the briefing, momentarily forgetting the Holocaust and prompting outraged calls for his resignation.
A few hours later, a contrite Spicer appeared on US television expressing regret for the comments, which in the hours after he made them were greeting with growing outrage and demands for his resignation.
“Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive comment about the Holocaust and there is no comparison,” he told the CNN. “For that I apologise. It was a mistake to do that.”
Spicer’s comments, which came during the Jewish festival of Passover, sparked calls from anti-defamation groups and opposition Democrats for his ouster.
Spicer, the most public face of the Donald Trump’s administration after the President himself, has been a frequent target of ire and satirists for his angry denunciations of press coverage and sometimes loose grasp of the facts.