Spicer says Hitler didn't use chemical weapons, Twitter differs

Commentary: In a news conference, the White House press secretary offers some unfortunate logic that launches tens of thousands of tweets. He's soon sorry.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A comparison not worth making.

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Comparisons with Hitler tend to yield nothing but rancor.

Whether it's Donald Trump or Syria's Bashar Assad who's compared to the Nazi leader, it rarely ends well.

In a press conference Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer went there. Later, he wished he hadn't.

"We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II," Spicer said when asked why the government believes Russia would withdraw its support for the Assad regime after it used such weapons on its own people. "You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons."

This, Spicer intimated, would surely give Russia pause for thought. It gave some of the attending journalists pause for thought, too.

One asked for a clarification.

Spicer explained: "He was not using gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing." Instead, he added, "he brought them into the Holocaust centers."

Those were actually gas chambers, where, indeed, Hitler exterminated millions of Jews.

Later on Tuesday, Spicer offered his apologies to CNN. "I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which, frankly, there is no comparison. And for that, I apologize."

Naturally, Spicer's troubling logic sparked Twitter and soon more than 50,000 tweets had been emitted in his name.

"Sean Spicer: 'That's a nice slow news day u have there. Would be a shame if someone were to...downplay the Holocaust & give props to Hitler," mused Haley Byrd, a journalist with the right-leaning Independent Journal Review.

"Star Trek" actor and writer Wil Wheaton took a different angle: "'Even Hitler didn't have a private email server.' -Sean Spicer, probably." The reference, of course, is to Hillary Clinton's use of private computing equipment when she was secretary of state, which helped derail her presidential ambitions.

Many Twitterers reached for the truly trivial, such as references to Pepsi and United Airlines public relations problems. Others lurched toward religion. This, from Dante Atkins, press secretary for Democratic Congressman John Garamendi: "Sean Spicer is the son in the parable who needs to be the one asking the questions, not providing the answers."

Perhaps the driest comment came from author and co-creator of the series "Embeds" Scott Conroy. "This is the day Sean Spicer became Press Secretary," he tweeted in reference CNN's Fareed Zakaria and other journalists, who assert Donald Trump became a president when he launched a missile strike on Syria.

The lesson is surely simple. Not only for Spicer, but for all of Twitter, whatever their political hue. No good can come from a Hitler comparison.


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