World

Calls for Trump’s press secretary to resign after Hitler gaffe

WASHINGTON White House press secretary Sean Spicer said yesterday he was personally and professionally pained by his comments comparing the atrocities of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler's, saying he had made a mistake and let down the president.

"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," Mr Spicer said during an event at a museum in Washington.

"I hope I showed that I understand that I did that and sought people's forgiveness because I screwed up."

Mr Spicer said his comments were professionally upsetting because President Donald Trump had had "an unbelievable successful couple of weeks" and it was his job to amplify that message of accomplishment but "I've let the president down".

Mr Spicer on Tuesday had suggested that World War II German dictator Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people, momentarily forgetting the Holocaust.

During a White House briefing, Mr Spicer sought to intensify criticism of President Bashar al-Assad, painting the Syrian leader's suspected use of sarin nerve agent against civilians last week as historically evil.

"You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons," Mr Spicer said, comparing Mr Assad unfavourably.

His comments - during the Jewish festival of Passover - prompted anti-defamation groups and Democrats to call for the already embattled press secretary's resignation. Both Israel and Germany also expressed anger.

"Sean Spicer must be fired, and the president must immediately disavow his spokesman's statements," said top Congressional Democrat Nancy Pelosi. "Either he is speaking for the president, or the president should have known better than to hire him."

The White House press corps offered Mr Spicer a chance to clarify. "I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no - he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing," Mr Spicer said, returning to the subject.

As journalists shouted "What about the Holocaust?" Mr Spicer continued: "I think there is clearly... I understand the point, thank you, thank you I appreciate that."

- WIRE SERVICES

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