Spicer’s Holocaust Gaffe Should, And Probably Will, Cost Him His Job

It’s not just Tuesday’s bit of idiocy, but an entire body of work.
04/11/2017 10:11 pm ET Updated Apr 12, 2017

If it’s true that Donald Trump thinks that Sean Spicer is a mistake-prone lightweight who isn’t up to the task of being White House Press Secretary, now would be a fine time to fire him.

During today’s press briefing, Spicer made the mother of all Hitler comparison gaffes. Trying to put Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on civilians into historical perspective, Spicer said, “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

Spicer forgot to add, “except for the 6 million people he killed with chemical weapons in his death camps.”

When a reporter mercifully gave him a chance to explain his moronic statement, Spicer followed up with this jumble:

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. I mean, there was clearly – I, I understand your point. Thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, in the – he brought them into the Holocaust centers. I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought, the use of it – I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent.

OK, now we get it. Hitler, unlike Assad, didn’t gas “his own people,” only Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, prisoners of war, and people suffering from physical and mental disabilities. And Hitler only gassed people at “Holocaust centers,” by which we assume Spicer meant death camps, but not “the middle of towns.” Plus, Assad’s chemical attack was aimed at the “innocent,” whereas Hitler, uh, well maybe this one doesn’t work so well. But the other stuff certainly explains it!

And let’s give Spicer credit for cleaning it up later in a written corrective statement. He wasn’t trying to “lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust.” That would be wrong, that’s for sure! Rather, he was simply pointing out that Hitler didn’t use “airplanes” to drop chemical weapons on “innocent people.”

It’s not clear whether the key distinction here is the one about airplanes, or the one about innocent people. Either way, Spicer assured us that all he was trying to say was that even “someone as despicable as Hitler” didn’t sink to the level of Assad. Hitler was no prize, sure, but he was no Assad!

Shortly after this corrective statement, Spicer issued a corrective corrective statement, assuring us that “any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.” And here we were thinking that attacks on innocent people were admirable. Glad we got that cleared up.

After issuing his corrective corrective statement, Spicer finally apologized for using “an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust.” Well said!

He is near weightless in terms of gravitas. Nobody who watches Spicer sees an adult.

OK, let’s get serious. Nobody will defend what Spicer said, but his supporters will insist that he’s a good guy, not an anti-Semite, and not so stupid that he doesn’t know about the Holocaust.

Let’s assume all that is true. It still shouldn’t, and most likely won’t, get him off the hook.

Whatever Spicer “isn’t,” we know what he is.

He’s an embarrassment not only to Trump, but to the entire country. It’s not just today’s bit of idiocy, but an entire body of work. It all started with the ridiculous false narrative about crowd size. The serial defense of the indefensible. The incoherent and false “explanations” of policy. The lack of command of basic facts. The malapropisms, incorrect acronyms, and inability to get names right.

This is a communications job, for heaven’s sake.

He’s also become a figure of ridicule. Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of a buffoonish Spicer clone is far too close to home.

And he is near weightless in terms of gravitas. Nobody who watches Spicer sees an adult.

Today’s gaffe should give Trump ample cover to do what one senses he’s wanted to do since shortly after he took office, replace Spicer with somebody better. And get brownie points from the outraged Jewish community at the same time.

Trump may be colossally ignorant, but he is not lacking in the instinct for opportunistic moments.

Don’t be surprised if Spicer is gone by the end of the week.

Philip Rotner is an attorney and an engaged citizen who has spent over 40 years practicing law. His views are his own and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he has been associated. Follow Philip on Twitter at @PhilipRotner

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