Spicer gaffes on the Holocaust. Will he keep his job?

by Martiz Fernando

  •   Wednesday, April 12, 2017
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History has never been the Trump administration’s strong suit. Back in February, at the beginning of Black History Month, Trump showed a blatant lack of knowledge of crucial historical events and figures when he said that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” To be sure, Douglass died in 1895, and Trump insinuated that the abolitionist was still alive and working to further his cause. This, in addition to other comments of similar nature, has worried pundits and observers who believe it is crucial for the individuals running this country to have a fundamental, if not thorough, understanding of the nation’s history in order to avoid making the same mistakes we have made in the past. Yesterday we saw the latest indication that the entire Trump administration slept through history class to instead take careful notes in the “rise to fascism” class being offered at the same time.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer has spent the last few days defending the president’s decision to launch an attack on a Syrian air field last week following a deadly chemical attack executed by the Assad regime. His tactic was to explain that Assad is even worse than Hitler and thus the attack was necessary by such a standard. In doing so, however, Spicer incorrectly stated that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing.” “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Spicer explained. “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to the using chemical weapons.” This is blatantly untrue, as Hitler’s Third Reich brought millions of innocent Jews and minority classes to chambers where they would be gassed to death as part of his ‘final solution.’ To top it off, Spicer referred to the concentration camps as “Holocaust centers.” Nobody calls them Holocaust centers, thus indicating Spicer’s tremendous lack of historical knowledge and sensitivity on controversial matters.

The comments drew sharp criticism from around the world. The Anne Frank Center For Mutual Respect issued a statement in response to Spicer’s comments calling for the press secretary’s removal. They referred to the gaffe as Holocaust denial and argued that the White House was perpetuating “the most offensive form of fake news imaginable.” House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also condemned the comments, saying that Spicer was either speaking for the president or should not have been hired in the first place, perhaps pushing back against many who will try to claim that Spicer was not representing the administration with his statement.

Spicer immediately realized the gravity of his mistake, saying immediately after the press conference, “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 centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.” He then went on an evening apology tour, speaking with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, whose parents are both Holocaust survivors. “Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which, frankly, there is no comparison,” he said. “And for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”

This is not the first example of anti-Semitism from this administration either. On the campaign trail, Trump had re-tweeted an image depicting a Star of David on top of a pile of money as an insult to Hillary Clinton for her perceived ties to Wall Street executives. When the White House released a statement to recognize International Holocaust Remembrance Day, they failed to directly mention Jews or anti-Semitism, producing significant criticism and backlash around the world.

Given the gravity of this gaffe, do you believe Spicer should lose his job?

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