White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday apologized again for downplaying Adolf Hitler’s use of chemical weapons against Jews.
Speaking at the Newseum in Washington, Spicer emphasized that he “screwed up” when comparing Hitler favorably to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his comments were “inexcusable and reprehensible.”
“It really is painful to myself to know that I did something like that, because that obviously wasn’t my intention,” Spicer said. “To know when you screw up you’ve possibly offended a lot of people – I’d ask, obviously, for folks’ forgiveness to try and understand I shouldn’t have tried to make a comparison. There’s no comparing atrocities.”
He added: “That’s obviously a very difficult thing personally to deal with because you know a lot of people who don’t know you wonder why you would say that.”
Critics noted that the press secretary’s comments were particularly insensitive during the Passover, the Jewish holiday which began on Monday. Spicer acknowledged that although the comparison was ill-advised under any circumstances, “of all weeks, this compounds this kind of mistake.”
Spicer also noted that he felt his comments had “distracted” from President Donald Trump’s policy agenda, though the press secretary said he had not spoken to the president – who has been known to watch the briefings – about the incident.
“On a professional level it’s disappointing because I’ve let the president down,” Spicer said. “On a personal level as well as a professional level that will not go down as a good day in my history.”
The Trump White House has repeatedly faced criticism for bugling outreach to Jews.
During the first month of his presidency, Trump occasionally veered off-topic when asked to denounce a spate of crimes directed at American Jews, and initially faced criticism over his selection of chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who led the far-right website Breitbart that has attracted some anti-Semitic readers.
Following Spicer’s comments on Tuesday, some Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Spicer to resign.