Donald Trump ignited a firestorm last weekend when the Republican presidential frontrunner asked his supporters to raise their right hand and “solemnly swear” to vote for him.
On NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday morning, host Savannah Guthrie told Trump that some people were “quite disturbed” by the pledge.
She noted that former Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, said the pledge “reminds him of the Nazi salute.”
“I wonder how you feel about that comparison and whether it would make you want to perhaps not do it any more?” Guthrie asked.
Trump initially dismissed the “ridiculous” criticism he was receiving for the right-arm pledge:
I think it’s ridiculous. I mean, we’re having such a great time. Yesterday, I had 20,000 people in Mississippi. I had tremendous crowds in Michigan. And sometimes we’ll do it for fun. And they will start screaming at me: “Do the swear-in! Do the swear-in!” I mean, they’re having such a great time. They’re massive crowds. I get by far the biggest crowds.
“Honestly, until this phone call. I didn’t know it was a problem,” he added. “I’ll tell you what: Almost everybody in the room raises their hand. We’re having a good time. I never knew it was a problem.”
Matt Lauer, another host of “Today,” then told Trump that his caustic campaign-trail rhetoric had also reminded some of his critics of history’s reactionary demagogues. On Monday, the president of Mexico invoked Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini while criticising Trump.
I think it’s also in combination, Mr. Trump, with some of the rhetoric you’ve used on the campaign trail over the last several months, targeting groups like Muslims and Mexicans, that that evokes of Nazi Germany and the scapegoating of Jews there back in the 1930s and ’40s.
Trump said such a comparison was a “big, big stretch” and then pivoted back to talking about his crowd sizes.
“I mean, honestly Matt, we’ve been having rallies that are massive,” the candidate said. “Yesterday in Mississippi and two days ago in Orlando — we had 25,000 people fill up a stadium. It was incredible. And we’re having these incredible rallies.”
That this would be brought up this morning, I’m very surprised to hear it. … If it’s offensive, or if there’s anything wrong with it, I wouldn’t do it. But when I say, “Raise your hand,” everybody raises their hand. They’re screaming to me to do it: “We want to do it.” And we’re all having a lot of fun.
“Let’s just be clear: So because you now know that it is offensive to some people, will you say will you say, ‘OK, let’s not do this in the future?” Lauer asked.
“I’ll certainly look into it. I mean, I’d like to find out that that’s true,” Trump replied. “I don’t want to offend anybody. But I can tell you that’s it’s been amazingly well received. But I’ll certainly look into that,” he continued.
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