President Barack Obama "misspoke" when he called a Nazi facility used to process Jews for execution a "Polish death camp," a White House official told Agence France-Presse.
The verbal gaffe came as the president was honoring a famous Pole, Jan Karski, posthumously awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian award.
Karski was a resistance fighter who sneaked behind enemy lines to witness the atrocities being committed against Jews. Obama referred to him being smuggled "into the Warsaw ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself," ABC News reported.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP that the president "misspoke."
"He was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland," Vietor said in the article. "We regret this misstatement, which should not detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski and those brave citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny."
ABC News adds that Vietor said in a statement, "The President has demonstrated in word and deed his rock-solid commitment to our close alliance with Poland."
"President Obama's remarks are already being called 'scandalous' by media outlets in Poland," Alex Storozynski, the president of the New York City-based Polish-American Kosciuszko Foundation, told ABC News. "Obama was seen reading this phrase off a teleprompter. The President must acknowledge his mistake and apologize for it. He must do it for Karski and the other Poles that risked their lives trying to stop the Holocaust," Storozynski said.
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to rock legend Bob Dylan during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
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