White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes a question during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Wednesday offered a fresh apology for minimizing the atrocities of Adolf Hitler in his comments on Syria, amid a wave of indignation at home and abroad.
"I made a mistake, there is no other way to say it," Spicer told a forum at the Newseum in Washington, adding that the damage was especially unfortunate because "it's a very holy week for the Christian people and the Jewish people."
Spicer said his gaffe was "painful to myself" and was "disappointing because I think I've let the president down."
During a White House briefing on Tuesday, the spokesman for President Donald Trump sought to highlight criticism of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, for his apparent use of the deadly nerve agent sarin against civilians.
"You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons," Spicer told reporters, momentarily overlooking the Holocaust and prompting outraged calls for his resignation.
A few hours later, a contrite Spicer appeared on US television expressing regret for the comments.
Despite the apologies, Spicer's remarks provoked outrage around the globe from those who claimed he showed insensitivity to victims of the Holocaust.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said contemporary comparisons with Nazi atrocities were ill-advised.
"Any comparison of current situations with the crimes of National Socialism leads to nothing good," the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters
In Israel, the Yad Vashem memorial center urged Spicer to visit its website and expressed "deep concern regarding the inaccurate and insensitive use of terms related to the Holocaust" by the press secretary.
"His statements imply a profound lack of knowledge of events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust. Moreover, they are liable to strengthen the hands of those whose goal is to distort history," it said.