Sean Spicer's most recent comments on the Holocaust are alarming for 2 reasons.

In trying to explain the brutality of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer screwed up bigly.

Just how bad is Assad? Spicer went straight to the internet's most overused (albeit somewhat apt, in this case) comparison: "You had someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons" like Assad did.

People quickly reacted with variations of "WTF are you doing, Spicey?" — not just over the fact that Spicer not only invoked one of history's greatest villains, but because he actually downplayed just how horrible Hitler was.


Spicer only made things worse when he attempted to clarify his comments: "[Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing."

There are two big, horrifying implications of what Spicer said that need to be addressed:

1. Yes, Hitler used chemical weapons. That's just a fact.

While Spicer spoke, MSNBC fact-checked him on the screen. "White House: Hitler didn't 'sink to level of using chemical weapons' like Syrian leader (Hitler gassed millions)." And honestly, anytime you get owned that hard by a cable news graphic-maker, you're probably having a pretty bad day.

At the peak of the Holocaust, as many as 6,000 Jews at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp were killed by cyanide-based pesticide Zyklon B every day. To say Hitler didn't "sink to the level of using chemical weapons" is reckless and ahistorical.

2. In arguing that Hitler didn't use chemical weapons on his "own people," Spicer implies that Hitler's "own people" were limited to his supporters, rather than all the citizens of Germany, the country he was in charge of.

At the beginning of World War II, more than 200,000 Jews lived in Germany. Many of them died as the result of Hitler's genocidal brutality. German Jews were Hitler's "own people," and it is really important that we acknowledge that. Hitler wasn't fighting some foreign threat. He was targeting his own citizens — people just trying to live in peace within their home borders — because of their religion, sexual orientation, or able-bodied-ness. Let's not downplay that.

An Auschwitz survivor displays his number tattoo. Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images.

Like Hitler, Assad is using chemical weapons. Like Hitler, Assad is targeting his own people.

Spicer's comparison isn't just inaccurate, it actively erases the true horrors of the Holocaust to justify Trump's military action against Assad, even as Trump refuses to open our borders to Assad's victims — refugees in need of aid.

It'd be one thing if this were the first time this White House made a mistake like this. But erasing basic facts about the Holocaust keeps happening, making it harder to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt.

In February, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect pilloried the White House for its weak response to threats made against Jewish community centers. At the inauguration, Trump aide Sebastian Gorka reportedly wore a medal from a Hungarian group with Nazi ties. In its statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House removed a reference to Jews. And while Spicer eventually clarified his statement a number of times, the damage seemed done.

"On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death," Steven Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center wrote on Facebook.

It's important that we get history right and that we don't misrepresent the past. It's the only way to avoid repeating those mistakes. Take note, Sean.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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