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The 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.
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.”
The World War II-era German dictator, however, famously did use chemical weapons in gas chambers to exterminate millions of Jewish people, LGBTQ people, and others in Eastern Europe.
“They are now getting on the wrong side of history in a really bad way,” Spicer said of Russia.
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.
But Spicer’s clarification remains murky. Hitler gassed his own people, many of whom were German Jews or others found undesirable to the Nazi movement, though it’s true that Hitler did not order airstrikes with chemical weapons on civilian populations.
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 airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people.”
The Trump administration found itself in hot water in January after omitting any reference to the plight of the Jewish people during World War II in an official statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day.