Donald Trump called criticism of his request for attendees at recent rallies to raise their hands and take a loyalty pledge “ridiculous.”
“You know, we’re having these incredible rallies. Considering the subject matter is not so good, because our country is in trouble, big trouble, we are having a great time. And you know, part of this is that,” Trump told NBC this morning.
“If it’s offensive, 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 it’s really — you know, we’re all having a lot of fun. I never thought it was anything offensive.”
Trump also told MSNBC “they’re raising their hand in the form of a vote, not in the form of a salute. That is crazy. That is crazy.”
After the crowd at an Orlando rally took the pledge, Trump quipped, “Don’t forget you all raised your hands. You swore. Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did.”
Holocaust survivor and former longtime Anti-Defamation League president Abe Foxman told The Times of Israel that “to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America.”
“We’ve seen this sort of thing at rallies of neo-Nazis. We’ve seen it at rallies of white supremacists. But to see it at a rally for a legitimate candidate for the presidency of the United States is outrageous,” Foxman added.
“It is a fascist gesture. He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes.”
Foxman noted that instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, “he’s asking them to swear allegiance to him.”
“He even threatens that if they don’t, they will suffer and be punished. This is so over the top for a man who really doesn’t come out of the underground. He is a man of the world. Even though he proclaims he doesn’t know who David Duke was, or the other white supremacists, we know very well that he knows,” he said. “So he’s playing to an image.”
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto told the Excelsior newspaper to be wary of “these strident expressions that seek to propose very simple solutions” as that sort of language has led to “very fateful scenes in the history of humanity.”
“That’s the way Mussolini arrived and the way Hitler arrived,” Peña Nieto said.
PJ contributor Bethany Mandel, writing in Jewish Daily Forward, noted that “Trump was guilty of one of two possible offenses by asking attendees to raise their arms in allegiance: he is either ignorant of basic world history or the former reality star is trying to make headlines.”
“By this point his entire campaign should have been on eggshells, avoiding further possible connections between their candidate and Hitler. Trump either doesn’t care about the Holocaust, or he doesn’t know much about it. Neither is acceptable in a future President of the United States,” Mandel continued.
“Trump fans have claimed it’s disrespectful to the memories of those who perished during the Holocaust to equate the two men and the rallies they held. It would be even more disrespectful to their memories to ignore the lessons about warning signs we learned in the 1930s, lest we repeat the same tragic history.”