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Sean Spicer continued his apology tour Wednesday.
During a 30-minute, wide-ranging conversation at the Newseum forum — which is centered around President Donald Trump’s relationship with the press — the White House press secretary said his Tuesday gaffe was “mine to own, mine to apologize for and mine to ask forgiveness for,” adding that he had let the president down.
Spicer faced instant backlash, with some Democrats and members of Hollywood calling for his resignation, after he said Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons during a Tuesday press briefing. He made the comment while talking about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime recently used chemical weapons on those within his country.
“Part of existing is understanding that when you do something wrong, if you own up to it, you do it. You let people know, and I did,” Spicer told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren. Spicer had quickly offered clarification after making his comment, and followed that up with an apology on CNN. While speaking Wednesday, he expanded on two takeaways from the incident.
“It’s a very holy week for both the Jewish people and the Christian people, and to make a gaffe and a mistake like this is inexcusable and reprehensible,” he began, referencing Passover and the upcoming Easter holidays. “Of all weeks, this compounds that kind of mistake.”
He continued, “It’s painful to myself to know that I did something like that, because that obviously was not my intention, and to know when you screw up that you possibly offended a lot of people. So I would ask for folks’ forgiveness, to understand that I should not have tried to make a comparison. There’s no comparing atrocities and this is a very solemn time for so many folks that this is part of that.”
Adding that Trump has had an “unbelievable couple of weeks,” Spicer said his actions were disappointing on both a personal and a professional level.
“When you’re distracting from that message of accomplishment, and you’re job is to be the exact opposite, on a professional level it’s disappointing because I think I’ve let the president down,” he said. “So on both a personal level and a professional level, that will go down as not a very good day in my history.”
— CNN (@CNN) April 12, 2017
During Spicer’s one-on-one conversation, he also addressed reports of discord between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and strategist Steve Bannon, calling them “overblown.”
“There’s a lot of opinions,” he admitted. “There’s obviously going to be spirited debates. I think that is a healthy way for the president to get guidance and make decisions.”
Compounding on the reports circulating through Washington, D.C., the New York Post ran a brief interview with Trump Wednesday, where the president appeared to be backing away from Bannon, whom he recently removed from the National Security Council. “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will,” he said of Bannon and Kushner.
Van Susteren explained that it’s important for the media to comment on the so-called feud when it’s the president’s top two aides seemingly having disagreements, but Spicer pushed back, saying that whether or not the two get along won’t impact Americans’ safety.
“I understand that there’s always going to be a little palace intrigue,” said Spicer, who then added that the interest in that intrigue compared to policy is “a little out of whack.” Though he said he’d like to see the media focus more on what the administration is doing, right or wrong, to make the country better and safer, he praised the country’s “robust” media and called his job both an honor and a privilege.
“In all honesty, the media’s got a job to do,” said Spicer, who has often sparred with members of the press corps. “As long as we have a healthy and robust media, I’m fine. I wish more people would focus on the policy and get it right, but it is what it is. This is the beauty of living in a free country. I think what we should all want is a media that takes their time, gets it right [instead of worrying about being first].”
Still, he defended Trump’s decision to skip this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an annual and usually star-studded Washington celebration of the First Amendment.
“It’s not the appropriate year to go,” he said. “I don’t think that we should fake it — going to a dinner where you sit around and they pretend everything is hunky-dory…. They should have their dinner and if things get better, maybe we’ll attend next year.”
Newseum is hosting a half-day forum exploring the Trump administration’s relationship with the press in the critical first months. The program, held at the Washington, D.C., museum, also will feature a one-on-one conversation with Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway and will explore challenges to the First Amendment and a free press in a divided nation through panels and presentations.
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