White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, April 11, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel on Wednesday welcomed an apology by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who stirred outrage a day earlier by saying, with reference to a deadly gas attack in Syria, that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II.
Spicer says Hitler "didn't even sink to using chemical weapons" (credit: REUTERS)
Later, in an interview with CNN, Spicer said: “It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it and I won’t do it again... it was inappropriate and insensitive.”
Spicer then added that he had let down US President Donald Trump. “I made a mistake.
There’s no other way to say it. I got into a topic that I shouldn’t have and I screwed up,” Spicer said during an event at a museum in Washington. “On both a personal level and a professional level, that will definitely go down as not a very good day in my history.”
Intelligence and Transport Minister Israel Katz said in a statement that, “Since he [Spicer] apologized and retracted his remarks, as far as [I] am concerned, the matter is over,” citing the “tremendous importance of historical truth and remembrance” of the victims of the Holocaust.
Spicer’s remarks had unleashed an angry tirade from Israeli lawmakers.
In his Tuesday briefing, Spicer had further said, when asked if he wanted to clarify his comments, that, “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”
Chairman of the Knesset Israel-US Relations Caucus, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), called Spicer’s remarks ignorant and outrageous and demanded that Trump renounce them.
“The White House urgently needs a history teacher,” said Shai. “Ignorance is not acceptable. Hitler used chemical weapons of mass destruction in a large scale that human history hadn’t seen until then, and since then.
“This a second failure of the White House recently, regarding the biggest tragedy that occurred to the Jewish people and took place in the 20th century,” he said, referring to the White House statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which Jews were not mentioned as victims.
“Where are the president’s tweets when you need them?” MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) dubbed the statement as “miserable,” and called on the White House to issue a correction.
“I am disturbed as this might be a hint for the problematic influence that might have entered the White House recently by Holocaust denying entities,” he said.
“Two weeks before Holocaust Remembrance Day [according to the Hebrew calendar], the Israeli government must break the silence regarding this statement and demand an apology,” Margalit added.
MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) also criticized the remarks, calling them “embarrassing in an intolerable way.”
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said when asked about Russia’s alliance with the Syrian government.
After Spicer’s clarification, Katz, in addition to issuing a statement, posted on Twitter that apologizing was the right step.
“It has significance, regarding the historic truth and the remembrance of six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust,” he said.
Katz had earlier condemned Spicer’s original remarks as “outrageous,” and said he should resign if he didn’t apologize for them.Reuters and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.