Attorney General Barr denies tear gassing protesters: 'Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant'
William Barr appears on CBS (screen grab)

Attorney General William Barr on Sunday insisted that federal forces did not technically use "tear gas" on protesters outside the White House because pepper spray is not a "chemical irritant."

In an interview on CBS, Barr said that it was a coincidence that the area around the White House was forcefully cleared of protesters minutes before President Donald Trump walked outside the grounds for a photo op last week.

"Three of my colleagues were there," CBS host Margaret Brennan explained to Barr. "They did not see projectiles being thrown."

"I was there," Barr replied. "They were thrown. I saw them thrown."

"And you believe that what the Park Police did using tear gas and projectiles was appropriate?" Brennan pressed.

"When they met resistance, yes," Barr said. "They announced three times. They didn't move. By the way, there was no tear gas used. The tear gas was used Sunday when they had to clear 8th Street to allow the fire department to come in to save St. John's Church. That's when tear gas was used."

"There were chemical irritants used by the Park Police [on Monday]," Brennan pointed out.

"No, there were no chemical irritants," Barr shot back. "Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. It's not chemical."

However, many experts disagree with Barr.

"A pepper ball is a projectile that contains chemicals, like pepper spray, that would irritate the eyes and lungs. Such a combination with smoke canisters would create clouds of a chemical irritant that would cause tearing," USA Today noted in a report last week. "Both are chemical irritants that can causing tearing, coughing and sometimes vomiting. Those symptoms were reported from protesters who were cleared from the park on Monday."

Watch the video below from CBS News.