George Carlin was wrong, there aren’t seven words you can’t say on television — there should be nine. The last two words should be “Hitler” and “Nazi.” Presidential press secretary Sean Spicer made that mistake last week, uttering a world-class-level stupid comment about the Holocaust and, when given the opportunity to correct it, he made it worse.
Along with the justifiable anger and horror about Spicer’s blunder, his gaffe also exposed the hypocrisy of politicians and mainstream media that blast inappropriate Holocaust analogies when they are made by Republicans or conservatives, but ignore them when uttered by Democrats or liberals.
When asked about the use of Sarin gas by Syrian president Assad, Spicer chided the tyrant with this reference to World War II: “You had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Zyklon B gas was a common weapon Nazis used to kill Jews during the Holocaust, as was carbon monoxide from motor exhaust.
A reporter read the comment back to Spicer and gave him an opportunity to pull pack the comment, but Spicer made it worse. Spicer responded: “I think when you come to Sarin gas, there was no — he [Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly, I understand your point, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. What I am 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 — so the use of it. And I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent.”
Spicer forgot one of the most important rules of politics: when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. A Holocaust center? The Innocent? Oy!
Spicer later issued an apology, and went on more than one news network to make televised apologies, including this one: “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 apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
But the apology didn’t matter, with mainstream media continuing to pile-on Spicer. Despite Spicer’s many mea culpas, Washington Post media critic Eric Wemple continued to blast President Trump’s press secretary.
“It’s not all just a verbal tic,” Wemple wrote. “The halting, hard-to-follow speech patterns reflect an unflattering truth about the top spokesperson at the White House: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A press secretary needs to have command of a vast topical landscape. Spicer has mastered bluster, and not much else.”
In September 2016, when Wemple’s own paper ran two opinion pieces inappropriately comparing candidate Trump to Hitler, Wemple was silent. That doesn’t excuse Spicer, just makes Wemple a hypocrite.
Wemple and the other media liberals weren’t only silent when the Washington Post made stupid Holocaust references, they ignored Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the Huffington Post, Comedian Louis C.K, and Rachel Maddow. They also ignored Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) comparing Republican governors John Kasich, Scott Walker and Chris Christie to Nazis.
Democratic congressmen like Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) and David Cicilline (D-RI) called for Spicer to be fired. But where were they when Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) compared conservative bloggers (like me) to Hitler? Why were they quiet when Keith Ellison (D-MN), the new deputy chairman of the Democratic Party, who is associated with the anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan and the Jew-hating Muslim Brotherhood, linked President George W. Bush and 9/11 to Adolf Hitler and the destruction of the Reichstag. Or when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) —who supported Ellison and referred to people at tea party rallies as Nazis — called for Spicer to be fired.
Even worse, in 2012 Pelosi refused to condemn the leader of the Democratic Party in California after he compared Paul Ryan to a Nazi propagandist while she was standing right there. Celebrities such as Barbara Streisand, who has compared Bush #43 to Herman Goering, or Debra Messing, who said a Trump adviser was a Nazi, were just two of the celebrities who called for Spicer to be fired.
The Anti-Defamation League had a muted response, only offering to give Spicer remedial courses on the Holocaust. I believe the press secretary should take them up on their offer. At the same time, perhaps the ADL can get a lesson on objectivity. A search of Google and the ADL’s website showcases the fact that like the media and the Democratic Party, the ADL criticizes Republicans and conservatives for inappropriate Holocaust references (and when they stray from the Democratic Party line on issues such as abortion and nuclear proliferation) but they do not criticize Democrats (even for the examples above) — perhaps because they are really a political organization masquerading as a human rights group.
None of this excuses what Spicer said last week. My liberal friends tell me that the case of Spicer is different from the others, and I agree. It is difference because not once in the other cases above did the person or media involved apologize. But Spicer immediately “manned up,” acknowledged his mistake, and said he was sorry.
n Jewish tradition if someone makes a mistake and genuinely apologizes we are supposed to forgive as long as that person shows that he’s changed his ways. Based on the speed of Spicer’s apology, and his apparent contrition, I am inclined to forgive him (as long as he doesn’t do it again).
The liberal media and Jewish organizations piling-on Spicer aren’t really bashing him for what he said, but because of the party and president for whom he works.
To the people who are still criticizing Spicer, I say, dayanu! Show a little rachmones for a guy who screwed up bad—but apologized over and over again. And if you are going to criticize people for inappropriate Shoah references, do it for everybody. Meanwhile, your selective outrage just shows you are trying to exploit the Holocaust to score political points.