Election 2016

Donald Trump Doesn't Understand Why Everyone Is So Upset About That Nazi-esque Salute

The presidential contender thinks all the criticism is "ridiculous."

Photo Credit: Twitter / Jenna Johnson

Donald Trump, the only person in America and quite possibly the world who needed to “look into” David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan before passing judgment, is again confused by things that seem fairly obvious to the rest of us. This time, it’s about the pledge he calls on supporters to take at rallies, which involves them raising their right hands to “solemnly swear” their vote for the billionaire. As has been pointed out by more than one observer—based on having eyes that can see and a passing knowledge of history—the resulting images look a lot like people sieg heiling. Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor, called the salute an “offensive, obnoxious and disgusting...fascist gesture.”

When questioned about Foxman and many others' reactions by "Today Show" co-host Samantha Guthrie, Trump shrugged off the criticism, because it’s all in good “fun.”

"Well, I think it’s ridiculous,” the billionaire presidential contender stated. “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’ll start screaming at me, ‘Do the swear-in! Do the swear-in!’ They’re having such a great time. Honestly, until this phone call, I didn’t know it was a problem."

Co-host Matt Lauer helpfully pointed out that perhaps the gesture is being received the way it is because of the terrible things Trump has said. “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," Lauer suggested, "targeting groups like Muslims and Mexicans, that evokes Nazi Germany and the scapegoating of Jews there back in the 1930s and '40s.”

But Trump insisted the charges are a "big, big stretch,” and returned to discussing the size of his audiences, which is at least better than discussing the size of his penis. He again stated he was “very surprised to hear” about the Nazi salute comparisons. “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."

Trump added, "Well, I’ll certainly look into it. I mean, I’d like to find out that that’s true. I don’t want to offend anybody. But I can tell you, that it’s been amazingly received, well-received."

Trump had similar responses on other shows he visited during this morning’s press tour. Speaking on "Good Morning America," Trump said, “I don’t know about the Hitler comparison. I hadn’t heard that, but it’s a terrible comparison. I’m not happy about that certainly, I don’t want that comparison. But, you know, we have to be strong and we have to be vigilant. And people agree with that.”

He also told Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, that the criticism is “ridiculous” and again stated this was the first he’d heard of it.

It might be worth recalling that in the past, Trump’s supporters have actually shouted “Sieg heil” at rallies, so the Nazi imagery is in keeping with the tone of campaign since early on.

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto recently compared Trump’s ascension to that of other dangerous demagogues, saying, “That's how Mussolini got in. That's how Hitler got in. They took advantage of a situation, a problem perhaps, which humanity was going through at the time, after an economic crisis.”

Glenn Beck—who is really one to talk—also compared Trump to Hitler, and comedian Louis CK wrote an email to fans imploring them not to support the Republican contender.

“Please stop it with voting for Trump," CK wrote. "It was funny for a little while. But the guy is Hitler. And by that I mean that we are being Germany in the '30s. Do you think they saw the shit coming? Hitler was just some hilarious and refreshing dude with a weird comb-over who would say anything at all.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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