'Today' hosts confront Donald Trump: Will you stop doing pledge that critics compare to a Nazi salute?

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Donald Trump: Comparisons of Pledge to Nazi Salute 'Ridiculous'

Donald Trump ignited a firestorm last weekend when the Republican presidential front-runner asked his supporters to raise their right hand and "solemnly swear" to vote for him.

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On NBC's "Today" show Tuesday morning, host Savannah Guthrie told Trump that some people were "quite disturbed" by the pledge.

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'Today' hosts confront Donald Trump: Will you stop doing pledge that critics compare to a Nazi salute?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to supporters during his rally at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Security removes protesters after one of many interruptions during Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters interrupt Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during his remarks at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: A protester yells as he is escorted out of a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: People listen as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs the arm of a young lady at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A group of young Muslims stage a small protest as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes the stage for a campaign rally during the Kansas GOP caucus at Century II in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Anti-Trump demonstrator Bill Anderson protests outside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses his supporters at rally during the Kansas GOP caucus at Century II in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Anti-Trump supporters demonstrate outside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY- MARCH 5: Evelyn Stalevicz shows her support for Donald Trump as voters lined up to vote in the GOP presidential caucus at Zachary Taylor Elementary school March 5, 2016, in Louisville, Kentucky. This would be the state of Kentucky's first-ever Republican Presidential Caucus, participating in Presidential Primaries in May alongside other states. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters acknowledge their candidate as he takes the stage inside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
A Donald Trump supporter raises his sign inside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters and protesters clash outside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters cheer for their man inside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Supporters cheer at the Trump For President rally at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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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 anymore?" 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'll 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.

Trump was also asked about the pledge on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and ABC's "Good Morning America."

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 criticizing Trump.

Lauer 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, 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."

Trump added:

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, '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 said. "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."

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