The first attempt came during the press conference in which he made the statement, much to the bewilderment of the onlooking press corps.
Asked to clarify the remarks, he said: “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.”
A journalist in the room pointed out the widely-known fact that German Jews were targeted during the Holocaust.
Not only that but sarin was discovered by the Nazis at Germany’s infamous I.G. Farben factory in October 1938 by Gerhard Schrader and his team of chemists.
Spicer stuttered: “Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the – he brought them into the Holocaust centres – I understand that.
“But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down into the middle of towns.”
To be fair to Spicer, Hitler did decide not to use weaponised sarin gas during World War Two although the reasons for this are unclear.
After the press conference Spicer issued a statement to reporters: “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centres. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
But the damage was already done and a number of individuals and organisations called for him to be fired.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement that Spicer was “downplaying the horror of the Holocaust” and should be fired. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said on Twitter, “Someone get @PressSec a refresher history course on Hitler stat (hashtag)#Icantbelievehereallysaidthat.”
The New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called on Trump to fire Spicer, saying he denied that Hitler gassed Jews during the Holocaust.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Jewish Republican from New York, said in a statement that “as far as comments being made and comparisons of various tactics and methods between now and World War II, you can make the comparison a little differently and it would be accurate, but it’s important to clear up that Hitler did in fact use chemical warfare to murder innocent people.”
Spicer was later forced to appear on CNN to make one final grovelling apology.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, he said: “I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week, using chemical weapons and gas.
“Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison.
“And for that I apologise. It was a mistake to do that.”
While many people called for Spicer to be fired, others said he had obviously not intended to deny the Holocaust had happened or apologise for the actions of Hitler.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that while “using the issue of the Holocaust or Hitler is problematic on many levels,” he believed Spicer had “genuinely and sincerely apologised.”
“He’s bent over backward to make clear those views are not his, not what he was trying to say,” Brooks said in a statement, adding, “We accept that and move on.”
Spicer’s comments came on the first day of Passover and a day after the White House held a Seder dinner marking the emancipation of the Jewish people, a tradition started during the Obama administration, reports the Associated Press.
According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Nazis experimented with poison gas in late 1939 with the killing of mental patients, which was termed “euthanasia.” Both mobile and stationary gas chambers were later used, with up to 6,000 Jews gassed each day at Auschwitz alone.