Both Jewish leaders and American politicians are calling for the immediate dismissal of White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, after he stated at a press conference that Syria’s president, Bashar-al-Assad, who attacked civilians with lethal sarin gas, was more dangerous than Hitler, because even “someone as despicable as Adolf Hitler” didn’t “sink” to “using the gas on his own people”.
Spicer’s false statement, which, unfortunately, gives support to Holocaust denial, completely disregards one of Hitler’s main instruments of genocide: the death camp gas chamber.
Tragically, when the poisonous Zyklon B gas was turned on, millions of victims, both Jews and non-Jews, were murdered. Spicer’s inability to see that there is no difference between dying in a Syrian chemical bomb attack, or a Nazi gas chamber, is deeply troubling.
So, without question, defending Hitler on the first day of Passover, which is when Spicer’s press conference occurred, made a bad situation even worse.
It is understandable that Spicer’s poor judgment triggered outrage when he publicly gave Hitler a pass by failing to mention the unspeakable barbarianism of the Holocaust.
Understandably, the backlash was immediate. The Anne Frank Center For Mutual Respect, tweeted that Donald Trump should “fire Sean Spicer now for engaging in Holocaust denial”.
House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, also called for Trump to fire Spicer: “downplaying the horrors of the Holocaust” as “Jews celebrated freedom from oppression [during Passover]”, in Pelosi’s opinion, should not be excused.
Roman Kent, a Holocaust survivor, who was born in Poland, and miraculously survived four concentration camps, did not disagree: “To have a person ignorant like this at the helm of our government – because being [a] press secretary is important – it’s tragic. It’s not a mistake [as Spicer claimed], it’s a tragedy. As far as I am concerned, a man so ignorant should not be our representative”.
In addition, Spicer’s use of the term, “Holocaust center”, to describe Hitler’s extermination camps, ignited a media firestorm.
But, despite the fact that Sean Spicer has apologized over and over again, telling the mainstream media that his remarks were “insensitive” and “inappropriate”, the public appears to approach Spicer with skepticism. Donald Trump has now said that he will not dismiss Spicer, as he “gets good ratings“.
A New York Times article about the controversy generated almost 3,000 negative posts about Spicer’s remarks.
Jennifer Rubin, the conservative columnist for the Washington Post, zeroed in on why Spicer’s comments triggered so much anger: “…we’ve never had a president like Trump, one lacking in the desire to ‘get it right’ and to learn what he needs to know. In that respect, Spicer is the perfect reflection of the Trump White House–its boorishness, and its cluelessness, its willful ignorance”.
And while it is an honorable act for Spicer to speak out about innocent Syrians dying as a result of chemical warfare, using the Holocaust to make a political point, is not only unethical, but one could argue that the notion put forth by Spicer that Hitler didn’t use gas on “his own people” is, in fact, Spicer’s most disturbing comment. German Jews, before Hitler destroyed democracy, were citizens with full rights–they, too, were Germany’s “own people”. In repeating these statements, Spicer is rendering Jews precisely as the Nazis would have wished them to be seen – as non-citizens, against whom the use of chemical extermination should be of lesser concern.
But given the fact that Sean Spicer told the mainstream press that it was “pathetic” that the White House was attacked for failing to mention the word, “Jews”, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, one should expect that he wouldn’t go on to demonstrate precisely why the Trump administration has been seen as lacking in its treatment of the Holocaust, and of Jewish issues more widely. In response to rising antisemitism, instead of taking a strong stance and showing a willingness to be proactive against it, Trump seemed to imply that Jews were committing false flag attacks, and he berated a Haredi reporter when asked about what his approach would be to rising antisemitism. The administration has consistently been lacklustre in its response to antisemitism, and must begin to mend these wounds by consulting with Jewish organisations and committing itself to a better understanding with the Jewish community.