The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect on Tuesday called for President Donald Trump to fire White House press secretary Sean Spicer “at once” for his comments about Adolf Hitler and chemical weapons.
“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death,” Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the center, said in a statement.
He called Spicer’s comments “the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary.”
“Sean Spicer now lacks the integrity to serve as White House press secretary, and President Trump must fire him at once,” Goldstein said.
And since Spicer is never prepared for anything, he bungled his attempt to clarify:
And then he and his team at the White House managed to bungle their numerous corrections:
There are several factors at play here that need attention. One is that Spicer made a mistake; there’s nothing in his original statement, his numerous attempts at clarifying, or his apology that make it seem like this was intentionally anti-Semitic, nor does it appear that he was trying to wink at the white supremacists who generally support Trump. Under any other circumstance, Spicer and everyone at the White House would attempt to qualify their statements, however egregious, by insisting that they’re being misinterpreted and reported out-of-context by the media. (And though it would be wise of Spicer to never, ever mention this incident again, I can’t say I’d be surprised if Spicer or another White House at some point blames the media for blowing this out of proportion. I can see Kellyanne Conway coming out with, “He was referring to alternative genocides.”) However, that’s not the case here. Spicer attempted to clarify, yes, but he also issued an almost immediate apology—uncharacteristic of this administration. But that doesn’t excuse Spicer for attempting and failing to make a terrible comparison.
What Spicer was trying to say but is obviously too stupid to articulate is that the Nazis generally didn’t use chemical weapons in battle—German bombers didn’t unload chemicals over London, and German soldiers didn’t launch chemical weapons at the Allies on D-Day, though there were instances of the Nazis using chemical weapons against the Soviets. It’s one of those not-quite-technically-accurate-but-close-enough-yet-who-cares statements, because it’s mind-boggling why you would ever make a comparison between the actions of the Nazis and a contemporary head-of-state that needs to first be qualified with, “With the exception of the Holocaust…”
But the reason this is getting more attention than it would in another White House, and why it’s more embarrassing and offensive, is that the Trump administration is known for its explicitly anti-Semitic sentiments. Intentionally or not, it does wind up winking to the white nationalists who support Trump, because it’s yet another entry in a long list of things the administration has said and done since the campaign began that would be automatically disqualifying for any normal candidate.
The Trump administration failed to mention the Jews in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. Trump has retweeted white supremacists on multiple occasions. Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton against a background of cash with the Star of David above it, the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” inside. Trump has on his staff the white supremacist Steve Bannon and anti-Semite Sebastian Gorka. Trump pretended to not know who David Duke was when Duke endorsed him. Trump was endorsed by the KKK. Donald Trump, Jr. made a joke about gas chambers. The Trump administration has its excuses and its defenders in the media: Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, is Jewish, as is Boris Epshteyn, the aide who wrote the Holocaust Remembrance Day speech.
But the picture is clear: the White House has an air of anti-Semitism that it doesn’t seem to mind not shaking off, and Spicer’s latest blunder only adds to the list of egregious statements the White House has made on the matter.
Many have called on Spicer to resign: more on that later.