WASHINGTON – White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologized again Wednesday for suggesting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had done worse things than Adolf Hitler and that Hitler, whose gas chambers killed millions, had not used chemical weapons.
“I screwed up,” Spicer told an audience at the Newseum. “I ask for folks’ forgiveness. There’s no comparing of atrocities.”
Spicer said his remarks were especially regrettable because this is a Jewish holy week.
During his Tuesday press briefing, Spicer had said Assad’s chemical attacks on Syrians were worse than Hitler’s mass killings of Jews.
Speaking at the Newseum, he said President Donald Trump has had “productive” talks with Chinese President Xi regarding North Korea, He also said the president has a goal of getting tax reform in fiscal 2017.
He also criticized reporters for using anonymous sources.
“We don’t have accountability. You are shooting at almost a ghost,” he said. If the story involves classified documents, “it ties our[press office] hands. We can’t fight back because it’s classified.”
But Spicer struck a reconcilitary tone with the media in the forum. “As long as we have a very robust media, I’m fine.”
When asked about what he’d wish for from the news media, he said, “I hope that the media takes its time. Not about being the first, but being right.”
Bob Carragher, a legislation analyst and a a donor to the Newseum, said that Spicer “has an extremely difficult job. It’s very unfortunate, or even unbelievable, that these comments happened.”
“I feel bad for him because I don’t think he’s a bad guy… People say he’s a very likeable guy,” Carragher said.
A journalist with Initium Media of Hong Kong said Trump is adept at using the media to amplify his messages.
“I think Trump will continue to use media skillfully to convey his messages, at the same time to maintain his anti-media, anti-establishment character,” Zhaoyin Feng said.
Carragher said a good relationship between the administration and the press would be better for the country.
“I hope there will be [a different dynamic between the administration and the press], he said. “I hope it’s not so much a challenge as to what has been said is true or not and I think it’s better for the country when there’s a good relationship between the president and all the media, not just a part of it.”
Journalists from Associated Press, CNN and NBC News said in a panel discussion that Trump should make amends for misstatements and create coalitions if he wants to be a successful president.
Jim Acosta of CNN said that because a lot of Americans support Trump’s economic agenda, “it will do wonders” if Trump apologizes for false claims like wiretapping.
“American people are forgiving people,” said Acosta. “President who admit their mistakes, and that they erred in their ways, reap the benefits of that.”
Kristen Welker of NBC News said that Trump could be a great president if he figures out how to make deals in Washington and identify potential allies.
The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush said Trump is likely to see erosion of his support in the 2018 mid-term election, and he “will be a more interesting president” afterward.
“It will be a tale of two presidencies,” Thrush said.