GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump Tuesday dismissed complaints that he made followers at a recent rally raise their hands in a resemblance of a Nazi salute as "ridiculous," saying that he'd just asked for a show of hands to see who would be voting for him.
"Boy, is that a stretch," Trump told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program
. "That's amazing that that would even be brought up. Of course not. That's ridiculous. This is the first I've heard of it this morning. I was on the "Today" show and they mentioned it and I said, 'What is going on here?' I think it's ridiculous."
He explained that at his "massive" rallies, which attract 25,000 people or more, "we're having actually a great time considering the subject matter is not so good, meaning the country is not doing well."
And as part of that, Trump said he says, "jokingly, raise your hand if you want to, if you swear to endorse me and swear to go vote for me. And the entire place practically laughing and having a good time raises their hands. They're raising their hand in the form of a vote, not in the form of a salute. That is crazy. I can't believe that's even being posed."
Show host Joe Scarborough agreed on the program that the topic is "ridiculous," and called it an "overreach" to think that the show of hands was a salute, as the video of the event shows what had happened better than still photos have been released.
Trump also told "Today" that his supporters call on him to make a gesture as if he's being sworn in for the presidency.
The complaints about the photo come after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto
on Monday compared Trump's language to that of dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and said his campaign has hurt relations between the United States and Mexico.
Trump's "strident expressions that seek to propose very simple solutions," Nieto told the Excelsior newspaper in Mexico, and language such as Trump uses led to "very fateful scenes in the history of humanity.
Former Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman also said this week that he found the hand-raising disturbing, and that he thinks Trump is fully aware of the gesture's implications.
"It is a fascist gesture," Foxman told The Times of Israel
. "He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes. Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, he's asking them to swear allegiance to him."
Further, Foxman said the gesture reminded him of salutes from Nazi rallies from the 1930s and 40s.
"As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, 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," he told The Times.
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