Opinion

By Apologizing to Adelson, Spicer Added a Sin to His Hitler-Assad Crime

Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson does not represent the Jewish people; he doesn't even represent American Jews, who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton last November

Sheldon Adelson, King of the Jews, at the National Israeli-American Conference in Washington October 19, 2015.
GARY CAMERON/REUTERS

There is a phrase in Hebrew, which could have been invented for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In rough translation, the phrase holds that some deed, however well-intentioned, actually "add a sin to a crime" that has already been committed.

Spicer's crime, of course, was his assertion during a press briefing, that during World War II, "You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons."

In the immediate aftermath of making such an inconceivably ignorant and offensive statement, Spicer scrambled to limit the damage. When one reporter had the balls to call out the press secretary, saying that Jews were gassed to death in their millions by Hitler's Nazi regime, Spicer tried to explain that Hitler "brought them (the Jews, presumably) to Holocaust centers," which is where he very definitely used chemical weapons against them.

Later, Spicer appeared on CNN, where he did make a fulsome apology for his comments. “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,” he told Wolf Blitzer. “And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”

Had that been the end of the affair, many people, myself included, would have been happy to put Spicer's blunder behind them. It could have been consigned to the ever-growing scrapbook of faux pas committed by President Donald Trump and his team. But that wasn't the end.

Spicer decided – or was persuaded – to pick up the phone and call the person that the administration clearly views as the King of the Jews and the ultimate representative of the Children of Israel: Republican Party mega-donor and Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson.

According to Politico, Adelson's office issued a statement, confirming that, "Sean called shortly after and said he made a terrible mistake and apologized if he was offensive."

And that was his sin.

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I believe that Spicer genuinely regrets making his unfortunate comment. I am sure that, if he could turn back time, he would not have made such a ridiculous and heinous statement.

But apologizing to Adelson of all people is like apologizing to Native Americans by groveling to the owner of the Washington Redskins. Adelson does not represent the Jewish people. He doesn't even represent American Jews, who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton last November.

Adelson is the hawkish, conservative incarnation of a worldview that is rapidly dying out. To see him as anything else is a distortion of reality that says more about Spicer (and the rest of the Trump administration) than his mangling of Holocaust history.

Spicer committed a grievous crime by claiming that "even Hitler didn't use chemical weapons." He sinned by thinking that Sheldon Adelson has the power to absolve him in the name of Jews everywhere.